Spotlight on … Participation

Posted on 20th Nov 2023

This month we shine the spotlight on Participation in SCRA. We talk to SCRA’s Participation Officer Jennifer Orren to find out more…

What is participation in SCRA?
Participation means many different things to different people. In SCRA, it means involving and listening to children, young people and families as well as staff with experience of care in the design and implementation of our services; working with partners, experts and stakeholders to offer a kinder, more inclusive service; enhancing our learning to improve and adapt our approaches; as well as delivering learning and employment opportunities exclusively for young people with experience of the Hearings System.

We continually work to improve our services, communications, policies and practice in a variety of different ways, co-designing where possible, and always with the child or young person at the centre of what we do. We aim to Keep The Promise as well, and be the best Corporate Parents we can be.

What are some of the projects that you are working on?
We have multiple improvement projects on the go at any one time! Some of our flagship programmes include the Modern Apprenticeship Programme, our Hearings Rooms Improvement Programme, the Dolly Parton Imagination Library book gifting programme, our Voice of Experience Reference Group and our Hearings/Care Experienced Work Experience programmes. We also have numerous Keeping The Promise improvement projects, which cover a range of participation and engagement activity. Our Keeping The Promise workstreams include many new projects, as well looking at responses to the asks and how we can adapt, improve or deliver new approaches to support children and young people.

We also work regularly with groups of children and young people who are care experienced or have attended Children’s Hearings to listen to new ideas, put them in to practice, and make sure that they are co-designed; for example, the Hearing About Me form or our suite of information films and cartoon designed by children and young people for children and young people.

What is SCRA’s Modern Apprenticeship programme?
SCRA’s Modern Apprenticeship programme is unique in that it is exclusively for young people who have experience of the Children’s Hearings System and/or of being in care. It has been running since 2010 and it is a national programme that offers a two year Apprenticeship or training opportunity with a recognised vocational qualification. During their Apprenticeship, colleagues not only graduate with an SVQ Level 3/SQF Level 6 qualification in Business and Administration, they also are offered additional learning opportunities and qualifications, as well as participating in our participation groups, such as our Keeping The Promise Team and our Voice of Experience Reference Group.

SCRA Modern Apprentices have been involved in the implementation and design of our ongoing Hearing Room Improvement Programme, interviewing potential Board Members, and assisting in the design of our films and leaflets. Almost all of our Modern Apprentices have gone on to secure permanent employment within SCRA.

Can you tell us about SCRA’s Voice of Experience Reference Group?
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 Voice of Experience Reference Group with the aim of delivering service improvements within SCRA.  Consultations, views, concerns, recommendations and recognition of positive approaches are collated, anonymised and submitted to both the Executive Management Team (EMT) and the Keeping The Promise Programme Board (KTPPB).  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.  All members value each other’s experiences, as well as the experiences of children, young people, families and carers. They use their unique perspective and experiences to nominate topics of focus or identify areas for improvement and make recommendations to the EMT or KTPPB.  Since the group’s inception, we have submitted two reports to the EMT and KTPPB and we have invited the Principal Reporter to our meetings to discuss the recommendations and ask for feedback on how areas for improvement will be addressed by SCRA.

You mentioned the Dolly Parton Imagination Library book gifting programme, can you tell us about that?
In early 2020, the Scottish branch of the Dolly Parton Imagination Library (DPIL) approached SCRA to work in partnership to gift books to children aged five and under attending Children’s Hearings. Every year, SCRA and the DPIL work together to co-ordinate thousands of books to be delivered to Hearing Centres across Scotland. These books are handed out to younger children attending their Hearings by our staff, alongside our take away colouring in kits, which we also introduced at the same time. The partnership has been a phenomenal success and is in its fourth year. Feedback from children and families has been extremely positive. We are also now trialling an older children’s book gifting programme in one of our Localities which will hopefully be rolled out nationally.

You’ve been heavily involved in SCRA’s Hearing Room Improvement Programme, how did it come about?
SCRA’s Hearing Rooms Improvement Programme started in 2014 with feedback from both our Modern Apprentices, as well as multiple research reports indicating that the previous formal rooms with large tables were intimidating, unfriendly and did not help children and young people to feel safe. Working with our Modern Apprentices and Who Cares? Scotland, we launched our first pilot room in 2015, which was a really big success. After that, we worked with more young people, as well as an interior design company to co-design a portfolio of child and young person friendly Hearing rooms which we have been rolling out since 2018. This national programme is nearly complete – take a look at pictures of the rooms on the website!  Alongside this, we have piloted our first complete sensory room in Glenrothes and several years ago, we introduced a large sensory garden in our Stirling Hearing Centre.

This all sounds amazing Jennifer. You must have had lots of buy in to make this all happen?
All of the changes that we have made, could not have happened without the dedication and commitment of our Modern Apprentices and Hearings-experienced children and young people from other groups that we work with, as well as SCRA staff who are all 100 per cent behind our participation work. These are just a few examples of some of the amazing and exciting projects we have been involved in, but there’s lots more to come. Watch this space for more exciting developments soon!

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