Empty promise? Policy paper from Common Weal

Empty Promise?

Overview —

A response to the Scottish Governments review into social care for children, The Promise.


Marion Macleod

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The Promise is the key driver of the Scottish Government’s policy in relation to family support and out-of-home care for children. It is largely based on information drawn from the views and opinions of people who have experience of care – but research data and other empirical evidence has being given lesser prominence in creating policies. This has led to an emphasis on responding to whichever issues arise from those expressing views rather than developing strategies based on the overall political, economic and social context in which problems arise. The key role of public services in bringing about the extent of change needed should be strongly emphasised and the critical contribution that the social work profession can and does make should receive greater priority. In addition, the application of research knowledge and sustained commitment to workforce development are critical components of an effective approach. Instead the strategy often feels like it is based on responding to subjective feelings with value-based language. That this work is disconnected from the work on a National Care Service makes little sense – a National Care Service could be pivotal in providing holistic and integrated support to children and their families.


― Many of the actions the Scottish Government proposes through The Promise are somewhat peripheral in terms of achieving major systemic change. In contrast, some fundamental problems are barely, or only superficially, referenced.

― A childhood compromised by severe and sustained adversity, or by persistent disruption and unsettlement, is likely to reduce the chances of positive and optimistic life outcomes in adulthood.

― The separation of social work with children from support for adults adds another unnecessary layer of complexity and results in families receiving services in an inconsistent, fragmented and uncoordinated way.

― The changing pattern of out-of-home care also should be recognised. More and more children are being cared for within their extended families. Kinship carers should receive adequate financial assistance but should also have access to the information, advice and support that enables them to give the best possible care.

― The Promise may have worthy intentions but it offers few imaginative or sufficiently far-reaching ideas to achieve the fundamental realignment to which it aspires.

― A road map without a clear direction of travel, that underestimates the distance to be travelled and that overlooks obstacles to be overcome along the route is, unfortunately, likely to lead to the wrong destination.

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