Scotland’s Independent Care Review heard over 5,500 experiences, half of which were from children, young people, and adults who had lived in care.
Through their stories, it became clear that the language used when talking to and about care experienced children, young people, and families often did not make them feel loved, safe, or respected.
The promise called for Scotland to change this. It outlines the need for Scotland to be the best parent it can be to the children it has responsibility for, which includes ensuring the workforce, carers, and the community “act, speak, and behave like a family”.
In their efforts to #KeepThePromise, Clackmannanshire Council wanted to change not only the language they use that could be harmful, but the culture around using that language. This required listening to the voices of the care experienced children, young people, families, and carers who would be most impacted by these changes.
The Participation Network undertook an extended discovery and definition phase using the principles of The Scottish Approach to Service Redesign. This involved:
- design workshops,
- consultation with Oor Clacks Voices— a group of local care experienced young people, and
- a well-attended language event with elected members, young people, care givers, and a range of staff from the council and third sector.
Through this process, the concept of a values-based Language Policy developed with four key themes:
- language is non-judgemental,
- language is transparent,
- language is easy to understand,and
- culture and values align.
These key themes allow the language that is used to be flexible to the needs and feelings of children and their families, which helps to avoid using stigmatising or over-professionalised language.
One thing that is emphasised in the policy, is that changing language is only effective if practice is also changed. It is essential to align the culture and values of the promise with the language that is used in practice. This allows for voice to remain at the centre of decisions about language beyond consultation and into practice.
Sign up to The Promise Scotland’s email newsletter to keep reading about Scotland’s Stories of Change.