Here at Life Changes Trust, we’ve always been interested in the idea of communities being more aware of and taking more responsibility for children and young people who are care experienced. After all, we can have progressive legislation and policy frameworks for children and young people who need formal care, but it is in the places and spaces where children and young people live their lives – in schools, community venues, colleges, workplaces, local parks, at home – that form their sense of self. If these places and spaces are not nurturing and inclusive it is much more challenging to develop a strong, confident identity and feel positive about your place in the world. With the advent of The Promise we have a vision for the care of children and young people in Scotland and it is clear that realising that vision is not the responsibility of someone else – we all have a part to play.
The Life Changes Trust is an independent Trust, set up by National Lottery Community Fund in 2013, and we are pursuing a transformational agenda with young people with care experience, people living with dementia and unpaid carers. When transformation is part of your mission, it pushes you to focus on strategic impact – what can we invest in that has the potential to make a significant difference?
We’ve always believed that investing in the voice of young people themselves is foundational to lasting transformation. This means funding work where people have the time and space to build relationships, often by getting alongside young people and doing activities together. It means letting go of rigid agendas and investing in people rather than in outcomes.
At the same time as we’re passionate about investing in young people, we also recognise the wider system factors that get in the way of them achieving their potential. The reality is that many young people with care experience face negative attitudes which can colour the way they think of themselves, sometimes with lifelong consequences. We know this because people with care experience of all ages speak consistently about it, but as a sector we didn’t necessarily understand where this negativity came from or what we could do about it.
Therefore, when we were given the opportunity in 2016 by The Robertson Trust to invest in research with the FrameWorks Institute we jumped at the chance, because this research would not only offer us a depth of understanding regarding public attitudes it would also offer tools to help all of us communicate about care and care experience in a way that counteracts unhelpful thinking.
More than five years have passed since that initial opportunity arose and the Life Changes Trust has been fully engaged each step of the way as the research evolved, and we moved to put research into practice by creating Each and Every Child and an accessible toolkit which is a free resource for anyone who cares about changing the narrative around care experience. The Trust is time-limited and our mission comes to an end next year. We’re currently very focused on legacy, on leaving funds behind to continue to build on the evidence we have amassed on what matters to young people and what works when you’re serious about engaging with them. We see Each and Every Child as being a key part of that legacy – creating the wider conditions for young people to thrive and achieve their full potential. We’re excited for the future of this work!
Carole Patrick is the Director of Evidence and Influencing at Life Changes Trust and sits on the Each and Every Child Management Group