Leave this website quickly

About this blog

In this blog, Fiona Duncan, Independent Strategic Advisor on the promise, writes about the core foundation of VOICE and how Plan 24-30 will remain rooted in the needs and aspirations of the care community, children, adults and families.

Nine circles arranged in a square, suggesting community.

In early 2017, I was appointed to chair the Independent Care Review and was clear in my commitment to listen to Scotland’s care community properly and carefully, to understand what they knew about what needed to change about the ‘care system’, and to call for those changes.

Four years ago, after listening to over 5,500 experiences - with over half being children, young people and adults who had lived experienced, and their families - the Review concluded, and Scotland made a promise.

The promise is built on five foundations, with VOICE at its heart

As I reach the midpoint of the ‘Understanding and Creating’ phase of work to devise Plan 24-30, the questions I keep asking myself are:

  1. Are children and young people, families and care experienced adults are being actively listened to and genuinely involved in decisions regarding their care?
  2. Has Scotland embedded processes and culture that enable compassionate focus on the needs and desires of children and families, and those they trust? And do decisions reflect this?

The unavoidable conclusion is that the VOICE foundation is not universally upheld.

And yet, the other four, the entire promise, rely on it. VOICE was at the centre of the promise heart logo for a reason.

Without doubt, some organisations have changed, and take great care to listen carefully - but that is not a universal experience. of everyone, everywhere across Scotland, every single day.

So, what is getting in the way?

I’ve heard a wide range of issues…

A lack of tools, especially concerning the best approaches for children and young people at different ages and stages. Is actively involving children and young people in decision-making putting too much pressure on them?

How to do deep listening to inform shared decision-making when a family is going into, or in a crisis.

There is also the perpetual question of resources - of who is best placed to listen, and do they have the skills, attitude and the time needed to nurture and maintain honest, trusting relationships?

And there continue to be structural barriers, even within single organisations – one part of an organisation might listen but if they do not make the decisions or hold the purse strings that listening can feel futile.

Confidence is mentioned a lot - often alongside how to fully consider risk when listening to support a complex range of issues.

Although listed individually, these are often inter-related and a reminder that what may seem straightforward is not always easy.

Despite these obstacles, there is no naivety here - some of the difficulties with listening are cultural, quite simply because people refuse to.  It appals me there are still people in CARING jobs (clue is in the name!) who’re clearly unwilling to listen to the people they serve, and to cede power.

This care is also apparent in performative listening. It is simply not ok to keep asking the same questions the care community asked and answered during Independent Care Review.

Voice and Plan 24-30

The fact is that Scotland needs to get better at listening and changing today, whilst listening to what is needed by 2030.

(To plagiarise Albert Einstein)

"Learn from (listening) yesterday, (listen to) change today, (listen to) transform tomorrow". 

My staunch belief is that the organisations listening carefully every single day and as a result have made positive changes to how they care, also have a responsibility to share widely how they are achieving this.

Meanwhile I will remain focused on devising Plan 24-30.

With my work underpinned by three core principles, the first is to ‘remain rooted in the needs and aspirations of the care community, children, adults and families’.

Although the Independent Care Review provided a great basis to build from, just as Scotland must not ask the same questions again, it also enabled us to learn that listening can’t be ‘outsourced’ by the those who need to hear what must change.

Like everything with this role, there is no part I can do on my own, including listening. Fortunately, Scotland has brilliant charities engaging the care community in many, beautiful ways, respecting its diversity, and not treating it as a homogenous group. So, rather than set up an organisation or approach, I will make best use of existing networks and skills to make sure all engagement is done responsibly, respectfully, and meaningfully.

When children, young people, adults, and families are demonstrably involved in decisions about their care, Scotland will be so much closer to keeping the promise.

I intend to play my part, my commitment is unwavering, I am and will continue to listen.

About the Author

Fiona Duncan - Independent Strategic Advisor
Photo credit: Sarah Maclean

Fiona Duncan

Independent Strategic Advisor

Fiona Duncan is the Independent Strategic Advisor on the promise, and advises Scottish Ministers in this capacity.