At the time of the 4th anniversary of The Promise, it is important for us as an agency to think about how we further integrate its objectives into everything we do.
The Independent Care Review identified key areas which underpin The Promise. These give Scotland a clear starting point when thinking about what matters when it comes to children, young people and how they are cared for.
Focusing on the voice of children and young people, The Independent Care Review stated: Children must be listened to and meaningfully and appropriately involved in decision-making about their care, with all those involved properly listening and responding to what children want and need. There must be a compassionate, caring, decision-making culture focussed on children and those they trust.
A major part of this is language; what words are used, how they are communicated, and how it supports that compassionate, caring, decision-making culture that is so vital. We are keen to constantly learn from the voices of children and young people to support them in their hopes and wishes, not just in what we do, but where we can in wider society.
At the start of the year we were delighted to welcome to our office a young person – Lewis, who is part of the Stirling Champions Board. Lewis sits on the board, which exists to be a “powerful and dynamic force for improving the lives of care experienced young people”. He also volunteers with the board’s younger members, ensuring that all voices are heard. He was supported on this visit by Tracy who organises the board and its activities.
Our team of staff, who work in different roles across Care Visions Fostering, heard from Lewis during the afternoon session about how some words and language used around a young person’s care, and its reporting, can make them feel as well as the lasting impact that these words can have.
Lewis shared his own experience and commented on how he doesn’t hear or see many of the words that we would discuss today, but he said that this is mainly down to his own current circumstances and because he is part of a very supportive foster family. He did mention that this might not have been the case a few years ago for him. This stresses the importance of the language we use when we are speaking to young people, and also how we communicate this with others.
We took part in an exercise using descriptive terms that groups like Stirling Champs want to consign to the ‘Word Bin’. Our staff had labels put on their head (literally) and we needed to work out what the words were. We then spent some time discussing how that made us feel with regards to how people would talk to us and treat from our label. These included terms such as, ‘Toxic’, ‘Dramatic’ and ‘Criminal’. The exercise was very powerful and, although as an agency we wouldn’t use such terms, it was important to think about the potential negative impact that those words could have on a child or young person.
Lewis and Tracy then led us in another exercise on how someone could use different terms and language for those words that have now been ‘binned’. This wasn’t as straightforward as it first seemed. Our staff really valued sharing and learning from each other’s experiences and the important input of Lewis and Tracy in this exercise.
This session reaffirmed the importance of language in what we do and who we work with, and how this connects to us upholding the values of The Promise.
Thank you to Lewis and Tracy for their time and sharing their valuable perspectives.
Lewis and Tracy left us with some really good resources. One of which was a set of Challenge Cards. These challenge us as a ‘Corporate Parent’ to bring forward one or more of the activities that their board feel is important and valuable to them.
We were also shared the Word Bin from Our Hearings, Our Voice, who are an independent board for children and young people that have experience of the Children’s Hearings System.
The Word Bin was created to help OHOV identify words that can upset or confuse children and young people. Suggestions generated from its use are be passed to their Language Leaders Group to support them in the work that they do.
Link to the site: Stigmatising Labels | OHOV Feedback Project
If you would like more information on Stirling Champions Board, you can visit: