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Today The Promise Scotland publishes Change Programme ONE. It is a plan of action for the coming year and follows on from the publication of Plan 21-24 which mapped and sequenced the 80+ calls to action in the Independent Care Review’s conclusions and identified five priority areas for the coming three years.

The collective buy-in to the change demanded by the Independent Care Review created an authorising environment for this approach to sequenced, collaborative implementation across multiple sectors and agencies towards a single, shared long-term vision.

This is new territory for Scotland.

The content of the Change Programme comes from the engagement The Promise Scotland is having with the organisations that have responsibility to change shape first or most for Scotland to #KeepThePromise. They are referred to in the Change Programme as ‘lead organisations’.

Many of the meetings to discuss the promise included multiple agencies, reflecting the joint working taking place across local partnerships to support children and families, demonstrating a sustained, shared commitment for doing things differently. The focus of the conversation was: what is happening now, what is planned and what is getting in the way of progress.

The Promise Scotland has made an assessment of the work against three categories. In nine areas, work is underway; in fifteen areas work is underway but does not yet appear sufficient; and in one area there is little or no work underway.

This is the first Change Programme and it was produced in the shadow of COVID-19, but it clearly shows there is a lot to do. The Promise Oversight Board will consider it, review mismatch and lack of alignment between national and local, system and service, practice and culture, etc.

This is the tricky part. When folk have to stop saying they support change and ACTUALLY change.

Some may feel criticised by the Change Programme, bruised by their report card. Others would like to have been more involved in its creation, but for them to operate radically differently commissioning, policy etc. has to change. And others saying they are doing what they can but the limitations of the operating environment won’t let them do more. The Oversight Board has to consider all of this.

Navigating this new territory has never been more important.

Many of the children and families who weren’t previously well served by public services have been the hardest hit over the last fifteen months, feeling even more acutely the effects of poverty, abuse and neglect, the impact of poor housing, the challenges of loneliness and addiction. And suffering the greatest loss of life.

The pandemic intensified, but did not create poverty and trauma. These families, as well as many others who were previously coping but due to changes in circumstances outwith their control, may now need help. So too might the thousands of new parents, as COVID-19 chronically restricted their access to social and professional support networks.

A profound risk of these consequences is that more children enter Scotland’s ‘care system,’ when, with support, families could stay together and thrive. They cannot be fearful of asking for help and it must be there when they need it.

The long-term impact of the last year on our children and young people is, as yet, unknown. Not being able to get out to play with friends or see family, instead worrying about loved ones whilst trying to keep up with schoolwork, sometimes without the kit needed to learn and in accommodation not conducive to learning, has been devastating. There have been too many lost opportunities to take part in activities like sport, music, art, sleepovers, with volunteering and work experience placements vanishing.

But here’s a difficult truth: those circumstances are not far from the everyday, pre-pandemic reality of children and young people who experience the very worst of Scotland’s ‘care system’. Eighteen months on from the Care Review there is no excuse for that ‘care system’ not to be gone for good.

The Change Programme is not an exhaustive list of all that is happening across Scotland. Everyday people and organisations are supporting children and families, caring for the children in Scotland’s care, championing their rights and helping make sure they go on to have a fulfilling life. They are doing what they can right now.

So, when you read it – and I hope you do – please think about your role, your responsibility and do what you can. Today, tomorrow and everyday.

We are more likely to get to where we all want to if we travel together and towards the same vision.