30 April 2021

Aberdeenshire #KeepThePromise by developing innovative ways to support families

Aberdeenshire’s councillors were presented with the outcome of an independent review of children’s care in Scotland, and the local authority’s progress on beginning to deliver on ‘The Promise’ this week.

The Promise is the name of the main report and output of the national care review which sets out clear timescales and milestones for children’s services to deliver on up to 2030. It is based on the feedback of over 5,500 care experienced children and adults, families and care workers.

Elected members pledged their support to ‘Keeping The Promise’ and being good corporate parents as part of the session. They made a commitment to listening to the needs, fears and wishes of care experienced children and young people, and being proactive and determined in collective efforts to address these.

Work in Aberdeenshire to address the findings of The Promise have been underway since April 2020. The session at the Full Council meeting provided a chance for care experienced young people to talk directly with councillors about their experiences and the recent impact of Covid-19.

The message from Aberdeenshire’s Young People’s Organising and Campaigning Group – bringing together care experienced young people to help shape the way services are designed and delivered – is simple: “Involve us… prepare us… include us… and, most importantly, listen to us…”

Watch their powerful clip on ‘Getting It Right – Coming Into Care and Moving Placements’ at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=chthUvhTHkg

Speaking after the meeting, Leigh Jolly, Head of Children’s Services for Aberdeenshire Council commented: “The key things our young people are telling us echoes what is outlined in The Promise and what was shared by care experienced people across Scotland. These include the importance of having a voice, being listened to, receiving good family support to help families stay together, and ensuring when young people have to come into care, the support is child-centred and based on relationships, and stigma is eradicated.

The council and community planning partners are piloting a whole systems approach to providing holistic family support in Aberdeenshire. Two projects are based on ‘Ten Principles of Family Support’ as detailed in ‘The Promise’.

As part of the ‘Supporting Local Families’ project, a small team of family link workers are co-located at Buchanhaven School to support families who are showing signs of vulnerability. They are working closely with the head teacher, early years senior practitioner, speech and language therapist, school nurse and local police to help families understand and have choice around the type of support they would like and how this is delivered. This choice enables the co-production of family plans based on their priorities, which may include access to adult literacy, employment skills, confidence building and healthy eating advice as well as parenting support. We will provide that support for as long as it is needed.

Leigh added: “Our aim is to enable families to feel supported, listened to and empowered, and develop capacity to reach their own goals and avoid the need for more targeted services in the longer term.”

Another pilot is delivering ‘Intensive Family Support’ to families and young people in crisis, building on the knowledge that sometimes people know they need to change but don’t know how. In crises support, services need to be able to come together quickly, understand the families journey and put in the right support at the right time in partnership with the family who are supported to be ‘in the driving seat.’

Leigh explained: “We know that to support children potentially at risk of coming into care to be able to remain with their families, that we need build strong relationships with those families. Strong relationships create the right conditions for change to begin to take place. We need to work hard to create connections and trust, and part of our approach is to provide a ‘no wrong door approach.’ This essentially enables services to work together to support families with any number of issues without having to wait for referrals or have services working to different timescales. 

“The idea with this project is that a trauma-informed team involving social work, speech and language therapy, specialist educational support, health and wellbeing support and clinical psychology come together and wrap around the family to build that relationship and support a lead professional to provide the right support. The aim is to help that family stay together and build the capacity to make changes that benefit everyone.”

Find out more about Aberdeenshire’s multi-agency approach to providing families with the right support at: https://www.girfec-aberdeenshire.org/