If care system is reformed the pain of growing up in care won’t have been for nothing

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Harry O’Neill is a member of Who Cares? Scotland and has experience of being in care. He is one of the people that Nicola Sturgeon referenced in her conference speech as having met when she announced a review of the care system.

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18th October 2016 by TFN Guest 0 Comments

The first minister has announced that the government will launch a review of the care system in Scotland. This tells me that she didn’t just hear us – she truly listened.

It is impossible to put into words how elated I am that not only were our voices heard, action is now being taken to change and rebuild the broken care system.

This is an unprecedented moment for care and care experienced people in Scotland. I would like to say a huge thank you to Nicola. This means the world to us.

In her speech, the first minister said: ‘The review will be driven by the experiences of those who are in care and have been in care. That is not something any other country has ever tried to do. We will do it here in Scotland first.’

If care system is reformed the pain of growing up in care won’t have been for nothingHarry O'Neill

I had most of my teenage years logged in a house diary so that when staff shifts changed, they knew what mood I was in.

This is what gives me the most hope. It means that the voices of care experienced people, like myself, will be the ones to shape the system.

For it to be recognised that the care system is not working is a massive achievement, and to help change it is even bigger.

It makes the hard times of being in care for all care experienced people, the unnecessary pain of moving between placements, families, residential care homes, separation from siblings, the lack of support and the harsh judgement from others won’t have been for nothing.

It should mean that no one will have to go through that again. We are determined to make sure this is the case.

I am considered by others as someone who is in a ‘positive destination’ and I worked hard to be where I am. I cannot say, however, that luck didn’t play a part.

I had stable support from so many people, people who would pick me up when I was down, tell me when I needed to stop messing around and people who told me I was worth something. Everyone’s experience of care will be vastly different but for me it was the love of people that saw me through. That’s why I’m glad that the first minister highlighted the work of great staff delivering care and made it clear that the review will learn from where things are already going right.

Even with my positive experience, growing up in care, in a world that doesn’t understand you is hard to deal with.

I had to explain to my friends why I was talking about my “staff” all the time or why the police had to check their house before I could sleep over. I had to sign for my pocket money and ask for a receipt with every purchase. I had go to meetings every few months and felt I had to put on an act. I used big words and acted, participating in a way that was easier for adults, so that I would be listened to. I had most of my teenage years logged in a house diary so that when staff shifts changed, they knew what mood I was in.

I want to see less system and more care. Young people will do better when se start to embrace the care, that is seldom placed ahead of procedures and processes.

It’s important now that we look forward to what the future holds and see this review through. I’m overwhelmed when I think about the possibilities. This review could mean that brothers and sisters get kept together. That no young person is locked up in a secure unit. That it will be demanded that a child is loved, not just cared for. That every young person who is taken into care is loved, championed and looked after like I was.

We know that if care experienced people are listened to, these changes and many more will be made.

Being part of Who Cares? Scotland makes me feel like part of a huge wider family, and that’s something all care experienced people should feel. I know we’ll all be watching and hopefully be involved in what happens over the coming months and years to see how the care system changes.

I’m so proud to have been part of this amazing moment in history and I’m proud to be part of this movement.

This is an opportunity for us, as a society, to re-imagine what care is. Let’s grab it with both hands.

This is an extract from Harry’s ‘Care Experienced People Just Made History’ blog, which is available on the Who Cares? Scotland website.