Nicola Sturgeon says she is determined to “make up for lost time” to improve the experiences of children and young people in care.
Scotland’s First Minister said her promise to transform the culture of care for people separated from their families had suffered because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Sturgeon announced The Promise in February 2019 following a damning report that highlighted the “separation, trauma, stigma and pain” in the care system that had let young people down.
Two years on, head of oversight at The Promise Scotland, Fiona McFarlane, told STV current affairs show Scotland Tonight that many care-experienced people’s lives “won’t have improved over the last two years and things will have been really, really hard and may even have got worse”.
She added: “That’s heartbreaking and shameful, and it shouldn’t be the case.”
Speaking at Care Day 2022 in Glenboig, North Lanarkshire, on Friday, Sturgeon pledged her “personal commitment” to ensure the improvements are put “firmly back on track”.
She said: “Just before Covid struck, we published the outcome of the independent root-and-branch review of the care system which culminated in The Promise.
“Obviously the last two years with Covid have disrupted progress on a number of things but hopefully now we have sustainably turned the corner on Covid, I’m determined and give a real personal commitment and determination that we get this work firmly back on track and make up for lost time.”
Sturgeon added: “It is really important that we focus on that, that we deliver that and we keep the momentum behind that.
“But we’ve got to listen to those with experience.
“In summary, we need to do much more as a society to prevent the need for young people going into the care system, and that means more support to keep families together where possible.
“What we announced in the recent budget – a Wellbeing Family Fund – is an important part of supporting that.
“But when young people do need the care of the state through the care system, we need to make sure that they don’t then experienced disadvantage for the rest of their lives.
“So there’s a whole range of things that we’re taking forward, it’s a whole-system approach but it is really important that we keep focused on it and listen as we go to new ideas and new experiences.”
Asked about the Welsh Government’s pilot scheme to give a basic income of £1600 per month to care leavers, Sturgeon said she had spoken to Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford about the scheme and would “consider” following suit.
Sturgeon added: “As you know, we’re working generally in Scotland to establish a minimum income guarantee and something that this may well be a part of how we do that.
“Of course, it’s also true to say that we have pioneered other approaches around care experience in Scotland – the care experience bursary, free dental treatment for young people with care experience, we’re now taking forward plans for care experienced grants for young people after they leave care
“The Promises is a whole system review, it’s not simply about helping young people who have been in care or who are in care, it’s about trying to deal with some of the root causes of your people that care.
“So I think we’re doing a lot of groundbreaking work in Scotland, but we absolutely are open to learning from experience from elsewhere, and both the Welsh and Scottish governments often share ideas and thinking around things like this.
“So we will be looking carefully at what the Welsh Government has set out and is doing.”