Spotlight on … Voice of Experience Reference Group

Posted on 23rd Oct 2023
A young girl with pain on her hands makes a love heart gesture with her hands

This month as part of celebrating Care Experienced Week 2023, we shine the spotlight on SCRA’s Voice of Experience Reference Group.

The Voice of Experience Reference Group is a group of staff in SCRA who have a wide variety of experiences of care, ranging from having been in care to giving care to children and young people involved in the Children’s Hearings System, and/or affected by Social Work involvement, as well as through informal means such as voluntary kinship care.

We talk to group co-ordinators, Collette Gallagher and Jennifer Orren to find out more…

Q) What is the Voice of Experience Reference Group?
SCRA recognises that staff with personal experience of being in care, giving care or having experience of the Children’s Hearings System in a variety of ways have a unique insight which will help us to improve our services for children, young people and families as well as Keep The Promise. In 2022 SCRA set up the Voice of Experience Reference Group, the group is an internal reference group to help us Keep The Promise. The group is open to staff who have a range of care experience.

The group is a closed group to support people’s privacy and promote open discussions during the meetings.

Q) What does the Voice of Experience Reference Group do?
Staff who have personal experience of care and the Children’s Hearings System in a variety of different ways bring their unique experiences to the work of the group and improvements within SCRA.

Consultations, views, concerns, recommendations and recognition of positive approaches are collated, anonymised and submitted to both the senior management team and our internal Keeping The Promise Programme Board. The group also invites staff with specialist skills to speak to the group to help grow and develop ideas, for example, the Press and Communications Manager has supported us with new pieces of work. We also have guest speakers attending to support the development of trauma informed areas of work. Those staff members who feel comfortable being open about their experiences of care have spoken at various events and sessions including the Staff Event to promote awareness of the group and its work.

Most importantly, the group members support each other in a safe, informal, confidential environment with the shared aim of improving services for children, young people, families and carers affected by the Hearings System.

Q) How often do you meet?
We meet as a group several times per year, generally every three months or so, and primarily online via Teams.  Alongside this we have minimum of two annual in-person Away Days.  We offer staff the opportunity to meet during the working day or for evening sessions if preferred, and we also offer one to one meetings for people who prefer that.

In addition to meetings we have a Teams Channel to share ideas, updates and topical items, which has been valuable in terms of sharing views as well as keeping group members up to date.

Q) And finally can you share what group members say about being part of the Voice of Experience Reference Group?
Yes, one of the group members recently shared that:

“Being a member of this group has been one of the most positive experiences of my working life in SCRA.  I have worked here for years but often felt a bit different and slightly on the outside.  I feel like I have found a space where people understand how I feel, who I am, what’s important to me and why, and without really having to explain myself.  I like how we can openly discuss ideas and hopes for change, and I feel like we have achieved some really great things since we started.”    

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