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This week is Care Experienced Week, founded by Who Cares? Scotland to celebrate the care experienced community.

Each year, its Love Rally marches for a lifetime of love for all care experienced people— and this year, Implementation Lead Thomas Carlton was one of the speakers. You can read the full text of his speech below.

Find out more about Care Experienced Week on the Who Cares? Scotland website.

Love Rally Speech

Good afternoon, everyone.
It is great to be here with you all. It is an immense privilege to have the chance to speak to you all today. It’s great to be able to be alongside so many familiar faces, but for those of you that don’t know me my name is Thomas Carlton— and it’s great to meet you.
I’m proud to be here with you all today to no longer feel shame when I own the fact that I am someone with experience of care. I am also a social worker. I am the support lead at The Promise Scotland. And I am also a dad.
And I am speaking to you today in all of those capacities, because they are all part of who I am and the journey that has brought me here today.
We are here today for a celebratory rally – and rightly so.
Think of what Scotland, thanks to the community of people with experience of care, has achieved in the last decade:
We have increased the leaving age of care, and after care support.
We have alleviated tax pressures that many of our peers would not be expected to have to consider until much later in life.
Those with experience of care no longer will have to accept leaving further and higher education with the greatest levels of student debt, thanks to the introduction of the care experienced bursary.
Access to dental health treatment has now been made more accessible, as has securing nursery placements for our children. Support to secure, meaningful jobs has improved.
A root and branch review of care was campaigned for by the community and delivered keeping the experience of care at the heart of its work. Scotland now commits to keeping the Promise by 2030. Scotland now commits to doing better.
All of this change has been due to people with experience of care being willing to inform Scotland of the realities of care.
And to Scotland’s credit— it has demonstrated an ability, and willingness, to listen to us in a way, it hadn’t before. Scotland is leading the way.
And that is thanks to the leadership of its care community. It is thanks to you here today.
It’s thanks, too, to members of the community who are not here today.
I know that in many ways, this is not solely a time of celebration. Those with experience of care, and their families, were some of those most impacted by the pandemic and the measures Scotland took to be safe.
Many families across the country are now confronted with a generational cost of living crisis – driven by unpredictable and unstable domestic and global events – that we know will likely mean difficult choices for many of us.
It is so important that we acknowledge how far we have come in the last decade, whilst not losing sight of how far we need to go to achieve the vision we are all committed to.
I know that many of you will be frustrated about the pace of change needed to #keepthepromise and reform the way Scotland responds to children and families in need. I share that impatience and frustration.
At times it feels really difficult. Because the care community has been expected to endure impatience and frustration in pursuit of our own justice, more than we should have.
I know this to be true – because I have experienced it and I have felt it.
But I really believe that Scotland is on a journey towards achieving the aspirations we have had for so long – for care not to hinder chances of securing a safe and happy adulthood.
In my work I know that there is real effort in developing new ideas and ways of doing things all across Scotland, including by every single local authority.
Change is happening, and it is the responsibility of us all to remain hopeful and continue to support and drive the necessary change we as a community, but also now we as a nation, crave.
The promise must be kept. It enables us all to hope that tomorrow the systemic pressures on us all to succeed are lifted. It is that hope that allows Scotland to move on from yesterday and build the tomorrow that matters so much to you, to me and to all of us. A tomorrow where Scotland does so much better for the children and families following in our footsteps. A tomorrow where those following in our footsteps grow up loved, safe and respected.
Over the last decade I've been utterly privileged to walk alongside so many people who have lived with the unimaginable - but I've been inspired beyond belief at their ability to adjust and overcome. Many of you here today have overcome, and that is inspirational. It matters. You matter. And the journey we are all on as a country shows: we have always mattered.
I urge you all to continue to do what it is you do. I'm so thankful to the membership of Who Cares? Scotland. Rightly, they with the whole community of those with experience of care, holds Scotland to account with the progress being made to keep the promise.
It was thanks to the care community that the promise was made.
It’s to the care community that promise must be kept.
I’m proud to be part of that community. To walk with you today. Thank you.
The promise will be kept.

About the author

Thomas Carlton - Implementation Lead
Photo credit: Sarah Maclean

Thomas Carlton

Implementation Lead

Thomas and his colleagues seek to get alongside all those looking to keep the Promise, to respond to their support needs in order to best drive the necessary required change.

It is a privilege to lead the Promise Delivery Partners in this work, which currently has a focus on supporting local areas and organisations funded from The Promise Partnership.