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Fiona Duncan is Independent Strategic Advisor - the promise.

As part of her role, she’s creating Plan 24-30— which will soon have its own dedicated website.

Until it does, her blogs on the Plan’s progress are hosted here on The Promise Scotland’s website.


Image outlining the three phases involved in devising Plan 24-30.


As set out late last year, to devise Plan 24-30 we have been listening carefully. This ‘Understanding and Creating’ phase ended at the end of February.’

As part of ‘Understanding,’ views were sought from a wide range of people, organisations and communities all working to keep the promise, asking them from their perspective:

  • what is working well,
  • what priority actions are needed to accelerate change,
  • where the challenges lie,
  • what ‘good’ (and ‘bad’) looks like in their area of work or focus.

I am enormously grateful to all who met and had conversations about this, across the ‘care system’ and beyond, both for the volume of responses, and for the quality of their input.

Over 100 organisations and national bodies from all over Scotland sent 160+ documents for consideration.

In addition, many individuals took time to respond to an online survey to share their perspectives.

All of this, plus the most up-to-date data and research will provide a huge body of evidence on how Scotland is doing in its collective ambition to #KeepThePromise.

To make sure everything received is properly understood and can inform work on Plan 24-30, this evidence is currently being collated and meticulously analysed.

And some early themes are emerging.

Listening

The Independent Care Review’s galvanising vision has generated an immense amount of change across Scotland, demonstrating a sustained commitment to keep the promise. Underpinning this is a value-based consensus on the need to focus on what matters most to children and families – something that can only be fully understood from listening.

Listening is the pathway to overcome structural barriers and make better decisions for children and families.

In my February blog post, I surmised that Scotland must get better at listening. Later that month, at the Promise Scotland Stories of Change conference, I was clear that if you know and can describe the barriers getting in the way of change, then you are also able to articulate what’s needed to overcome these.

With knowledge, comes responsibility…

So, my responsibility − one I share with the team at The Promise Scotland − is to tackle the barriers that seem to continue to get in the way of the ‘system’ listening with intent to the care community.

Understanding these barriers will inform how Plan 24-30 is devised and how it is delivered - and to make sure the changes Plan 24-30 demands are being delivered in ways that matter most to the care community, all across the country, every single day. My hope is that building this know-how will help Scotland find ways to fully embed voice in ways that will sustain to 2030 – and beyond.

Developing a shared understanding of what it means to #KeepThePromise

Despite dedication to change, a further theme coming through from the responses is the need for help with setting, agreeing, and sequencing ‘change priorities.

Many organisations have diligently worked through the Independent Care Review’s calls to action. However, we have seen that a lack of shared understanding of what it means to #KeepThePromise is getting in the way of planning and setting priorities. This is particularly true when change is needed across an organisation and / or in collaboration with other agencies, specifically cross-sector working.

Plan 24-30 must help support ways to bridge this knowledge gap, to translate Scotland’s national aspiration into local, sequenced - often multi-agency - clearly owned actions. And it must be clear about what changes are needed, by who and by when.

Collaborative leadership

Another theme that connects to the above – and this is not news – is the need for strong, collaborative leadership.

Responsibility for modelling and engendering collaborative leadership sits very firmly with Scotland’s leaders – often the very same leaders with statutory duties to fulfil.

There are existing forums and groups, nationally and locally, to support and enable this. So, what Plan 24-30 needs to do is set out shared priority areas where collaboration is essential, be assertive what good (and bad) looks like, so there is no doubt about who needs to do what work with whom to achieve which actions by when.

Gap analysis

The purpose of Plan 24-30 is to provide Scotland with a route-map to #KeepThePromise – but a lot has changed since the promise was published in February 2020.

Some good

Many organisations have made positive changes, have gained skills, got experience and built knowledge, often testing the tolerance of the current ‘care system.’

When these changes are demonstrably making positive differences to the lives of children, families and care experienced adults, those organisations have an obligation to be generous with what they’ve learned and share it with others.

A good example of this might be the work Aberlour and Kibble have done to strive not to restrain children in their production of the Rethinking Restraint Report.

Some bad

It is unacceptable that despite legislation and National Practice Guidance, too many siblings going into the ‘care system’ continue to be separated from one another. The lack of available foster homes for larger groups is often cited as the reason.

And some downright ugly

The Independent Care Review was clear that it was impossible to review Scotland’s ‘care system’ without properly considering the pervasive impact of poverty, and that children growing up in poverty are overrepresented on the child protection register and are more likely to be removed from their families.

When a family lacks financial resources, when they face sub-standard service provision, when the streets they walk are less safe than in other parts of town, when homes are cramped and when keeping food on the table is a struggle, meeting all the needs of a child can be challenging.

the promise, page 17

Despite legal targets, today around 240,000 children live in poverty.

Analysis of the information received shows the gaps that have been / or are being bridged, those that are worsening and / or have changed very little.

Another theme is therefore the need for an up-to-date analysis of the gaps between the everyday lived reality of children, families and care experienced adults and the vision of the promise being kept.

Regardless of any change to any gap, Plan 24-30 will not rewrite or water down the promise. Instead, I will work closely with the care community to peer review these actions and milestones against their experiences.

Plan 24-30 will seek to quantify the gaps to understand what the (entire) system needs to do to bridge them and how to do this.

Money

Unsurprisingly, the barrier of short-term, fragmented funding with rigid reporting criteria repeatedly came up as a theme. This continues to get in the way of longer-term planning of both system(s) change(s), and of services.

The need for structural change to public funding has been talked about for eons. Over a decade ago the work of Christie Commission made sure it was well understood, and since then multiple reports over many years by the Auditor General(s) has highlighted the crisis.

Scotland’s Programme for Government 2023-24 contained a commitment to a Cabinet Sub-Committee chaired by the First Minister, “to enable the cross-portfolio change required to improve outcomes for Scotland’s care experienced children, young people, adults, and families” with “early tasks [that] will include exploring the role that both prevention and philanthropy might play in delivering better outcomes”.

Scotland needs new ways of financing public services in pursuit of prevention and better outcomes, one that acknowledges people do not live in narrow, policy silos.

In parallel with senior officials at Scottish Government, I have been working on an investment and disinvestment strategy with colleagues from The Promise Scotland and a group of sector leaders.

It will generate proposals, aligned to delivery of the priorities outlined in Plan 24-30, that themselves must reflect what the care community wants and needs.

The investment and disinvestment strategy must also ensure funding can no longer be used as excuse for the inexcusable…

For example, despite the promise making clear that young people must be encouraged to ‘stay put’ in their setting of care for as long as they need to, and allow young people to stay with foster carers if that is what they want to do, some local authorities still demand they leave— and on significant birthdays.

Plan 24-30 must challenge the rules, regulations and payments used to excuse the inexcusable, and pose solutions that put an end to practices that don’t meet the care communities’ needs.

That is A LOT already.

But as there’s still so much more to share, between now and late June when Plan 24-30 will launch, there will be regular blog posts - the next one will be week commencing 22 April.

Plan 21-24

Earlier this year, The Promise Scotland tendered for independent evaluation of progress against Plan 21-24. The tender was awarded on 31 March 2024, and the evaluation is ongoing and will conclude in May this year.

A recurring question over the last couple of months has been what will happen to the work underway on Plan 21-24 when Plan 24-30 is launched.

As The Oversight Board acknowledged in Report TWO (published June 2023):

Sadly, due to the worsening circumstances for so many and the current pace of change, the Promise Oversight Board does not believe that delivering the original aims of Plan 21-24 is realistic by next year.

Report TWO , page 4

As the fundamentals, priority areas and associated actions are still critical foundations for the promise to be kept, Plan 24-30 will build on this.

So, if you are working hard to deliver Plan 21-24, please don’t stop.

Plan 24-30

Plan 24-30 will include sequenced priorities (what) by stakeholders (who), identifying areas requiring collaboration (with whom) with clear milestones (by when) for delivery through to 2030 and will illustrate change demanded by all different parts of the ‘care system’.

Whilst the destination is fixed – the promise kept in full, all across the country, every single day ‘how’ Scotland achieves this must be agile and iterative to reflect the ever-changing environment.

Plan 24-30 will track pace, performance, and accountability. So that we are all clear what good looks like, and how we measure this.

In closing, I want to share one thing that has really struck me when going through the documents sent for consideration – and that is just how honest individuals and organisation have been. They have offered candid assessments of progress and barriers. They have been generous with what they know and have learned, and humble about how far they – and Scotland – must go to keep the promise.

I am appreciative of this sincerity and dedication – there are so many of us committed to making sure that Scotland will keep the promise.

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