Care-experienced People

– in the Scottish Parliament at on 11 January 2024.

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Photo of Roz McCall Roz McCall Conservative

5. To ask the First Minister what the Scottish Government’s response is to reports that the Promise is not on track to deliver effective change for Scotland’s care-experienced people. (S6F-02708)

Photo of Humza Yousaf Humza Yousaf Scottish National Party

Keeping the Promise is an absolute top priority for this Government. When I met Fiona Duncan, the independent strategic adviser for the Promise, late last year, she confirmed her view that the Promise can be met by 2030. I am determined that we will do exactly that.

Over the past year, we have made substantial progress on a range of aspects of the Promise, including the Scottish recommended allowance for foster and kinship carers and the investment of £6 million in the bairns’ hoose pathfinders.

There is simply no doubt that there is more to do, but I assure the chamber that this Government will do everything in our power to keep and deliver the Promise to Scotland’s care-experienced people.

Photo of Roz McCall Roz McCall Conservative

Four years on, and the lives of care-experienced people in Scotland are no better. The First Minister will be aware of the comments by Megan Moffat of Who Cares? Scotland, who said that, despite laudable ambitions, there is

“no clear detail on how that should happen, who should do it, when by and how much it will cost”.

The outgoing children’s commissioner stated that Nicola Sturgeon “absolutely” failed Scotland’s young people, and that self-same MSP admitted recently that

“there is an implementation gap”.

When will the Scottish National Party-Green Government stop tinkering around the edges of meaningful change, empower and adequately fund our councils to do the job, get the Promise back on track and stop failing the most vulnerable people in our society?

The First Minister:

It takes some brass neck for a Conservative member to stand there and demand more money for local services and local government when the Conservative Government is continually—time and again—cutting our budget in real terms over a number of years.

I also disagree fundamentally with Roz McCall’s suggestion that things have not improved. The latest published data shows that there were almost 2,000 fewer looked-after children in July 2022 than there were at the start of the Promise, in July 2020, which is a 12.9 per cent reduction. That is not just a number; that is almost 2,000 children, young people and families who have been impacted and affected positively.

I am not suggesting to Roz McCall or to anybody else that there are no issues with the implementation of the Promise. However, in my recent meeting with Fiona Duncan, who is widely respected by members across the chamber, there was a determination and understanding that we can absolutely keep the Promise. That is why we will work with Fiona Duncan and all the stakeholders in relation to keeping the Promise through plan 24-30. I promise those care-experienced young people and other care-experienced people, whatever stage of life they are at, that the Government is absolutely resolute and unwavering in its commitment to keeping and delivering the Promise to them.

Photo of Nicola Sturgeon Nicola Sturgeon Scottish National Party

D oes the First Minister agree that, if we are to keep the Promise, the significant progress that has already been made needs to continue and now intensify? In particular, does he agree that the whole family wellbeing fund is absolutely essential to providing the funding to transform services so that families are better supported and fewer young people need to enter care in the first place? To that end, will he give a commitment that the fund will be delivered in full and that it will be fully invested in to improve the lives of the young people—present and future—to whom the Promise has been made?

The First Minister:

Absolutely. First and foremost, I recognise that there would not be a Promise if it were not for the efforts of the former First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, and she would be the first to say that there would be no Promise if it were not for the efforts of young care-experienced people. I pay tribute to them for the impact that they have had on us all—not just on those of us in Government, but, I suspect, on every member of the Scottish Parliament who has engaged with care-experienced young people and care-experienced people more generally.

I have had the pleasure of engaging with a number of care-experienced people in my time as First Minister and before. Most recently, I hosted them in Bute house for a Christmas party, which was not only great fun but gave me the opportunity to hear from them directly on the improvements that we have to make.

To answer Nicola Sturgeon’s question, the whole family wellbeing fund is a central component in keeping the Promise. Despite the very challenging autumn statement and the continued cuts to our budget over a number of years, we have prioritised £50 million for the fund in the 2024-25 budget. We have done so even in the face of significant financial constraints, which reflects the priority and importance that we attach to keeping the Promise.