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‘They’ve just passed the motion to make care experienced a protected characteristic, and now it’s my job to put it into practice’.  

I’ve had several calls that start with a different version of this phrase. Good, caring and passionate professionals who have been given the task to put into action what is currently being campaigned for. 

The irony is, that those phone calls I have received have been from people who have limited to no power to author change, nor has the system around them made any alterations to allow them to do so. What are these good people to do?  

In no way will this be the experience of every local authority, my exposure is those who are seeking support to put the protected characteristic into action, come in search of guidance. 

As part of my work as a consultant, I assess a request from a local authority to ensure I can help, this is done before any work begins as I want to make sure a platform for change exists. Firstly, I seek to understand: is the request backed with authentic power? That being, if you need a trusted partner to collaborate to improve services, determining whether the power and governance exists to create change. Another thing I look at is the ‘why’. I want to know why the change is happening. Is this because people want to make change to benefit young people or is it something else? Something else could be pressure, it could be an organisational change, new leadership, or simply because regulators have deemed them inadequate, and now another reason is that they have to because ‘care experience’ is now a protected characteristic. The ‘why’ is important because that’s where the drive exists, you need to want to change things for the right reasons to maintain motivation when the inevitable challenges of change commence. A third key aspect I search for is the partnerships that may currently exist. Children’s social care can never solve the issues for care experienced people alone, we talk about how it takes a village to raise a child and we look at this village. What freedoms does social care as a system have to act? How collaborative are they with their partners? Who is around the table as allies?  

Good, caring and passionate professionals are being asked to sail the seas of social care but are often stranded on a small island, with a boat, but no sail, compass or crew. They need the full kit: the sail to move forward, the compass for direction, a crew to guide them, and the resilience to weather the storms. The compass represents a protected characteristic: it will direct attention toward some of the issues care experience people face, but deeper navigation and further exploration is needed into how we solve these issues, then change can be made from the treasure of discovery. 

I am seeing an additional pressure has been created for these people and I fear that we will lose them. I fear that the more we move into this campaign, pointing the finger of discrimination and blame at hard working people will ultimately lead all those who are great, to close the gate. I don’t know if this motion will improve the lives of care experienced people, but I do know it’s increasing pressure at the top of the system, which is getting passed down to the bottom – to those good, caring and passionate professionals who experience similar afflictions of the system that children do. 

Frontline workers are the only reason social care can operate, they are already under pressure, they are burnt out, they want to do good in a system that struggles to enable it. This is austerity, this is lack of support, this is high case-loads, system failure – is this campaign now saying professionals are discrimination care experience people?  

We deserve to make decisions because it’s right for people, not because of pressure, politics, or the fear of persecution. We need to make decisions because they are the right thing to do. This campaign needs to turn their noise into knowledge and explore how this is going to impact the workforce, what the operational objective will be and understand if it will actually have a positive impact to overcome the issues care experienced people face.  

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Care Leavers Middlesbrough Children Matter Youth Voice Bucks The House Project Buckingham Council Department For Education Leeds City Council
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