Hope for transformation in secure care

As STARR – Scotland’s only curated space for secure care experienced people – celebrates winning a Young Scot Community Award, the group’s co-founder and chair Beth-Anne Logan reflects on how she’s using care experience to drive change and development in the care system in Scotland, in this guest blog for the Talking Hope project.`

Being care-experienced myself is what drove me to the table and made me want to work in the care sector, but it’s not all that I bring. I’m lucky enough now to have learnt a lot of skills, knowledge and understanding of the complex care system that we operate in, which means that I am well-placed for making judgements, calls and decisions based on what I think is right for the care community. Essentially, what I’m trying to do is work myself out of a job, because I want us to have a post-Promise world where families are supported and nurtured, where our children are treated as children and where we don’t necessarily have to restrict our children’s liberty to keep them safe.

I think that everything that I’ve experienced – the good, the bad and the ugly – has made my passion and my drive for change really fierce. Most importantly, I do the work that I do because I want to see a Scotland where the care community is valued, where it’s cherished and loved, and where people understand. Right now, people are curious about the care community and they want to understand a bit more, but I want to be able to help educate society to be understanding of what it’s like for someone to grow up in care. As part of my commitment to supporting the care community, I was a co-founder of STARR, a group for people with lived experience of care. When we formed STARR, I think we really underestimated the power of secure care and the impact – the life-long impact- that it has on people. We underestimated the gravitas of what being in secure care is like and how that can affect everyday interactions with people.

Growing up within care you often felt othered. For example, being taken out of school for meetings or having somebody different drop you off at school every day, or having to get a taxi, or having to get two or three buses and trains to school because you were moved away from your local area, was really difficult. But the value of bringing people with lived experience of care together can never be underestimated, because you’ve got that sense of community where people are able to allow themselves to be vulnerable, and for that to be ok. It might be that you’re having a bad day, or you’ve had a bad week, or a bad month, or a bad year. But in the care community we can say to each other: we’re here, we’re here for you, we’re here with you and we’re committed to seeing it through to the other side.

The sense of belonging and connection that we feel with each other is second to none and we just appreciate being in the same space as each other. Over the pandemic that couldn’t happen, and for everyone – not just people with care experience – that feeling of isolation and loss was huge. But that feeling was amplified for the care community because most of us have already felt periods of isolation and periods of loss during our lives. I remember the first time after the pandemic restrictions had eased, we managed to get a lecture theatre booked and we all got together and played a game of bingo. We had pizza and we played prize bingo and that night everybody was saying ‘This is the best night that I’ve had in years!’- and we realised it had been. It had been two years that we couldn’t get together like that.

I give every bit of myself to transforming the care system. It’s my passion. I eat, sleep and breathe it. I do it in my spare time, I do it in my work time. I’m involved in so many different things because I’m so committed to getting it right. I think it would be impossible to do this job, and to do it well, without having that personal investment, a personal stake. But there’s also the balance to strike because it can’t all be personal- it can’t all be because you’ve experienced it and you want to see it change, you’ve got to bring other things to it: you’ve got to bring solutions to the problem. And I think what the Independent Care Review did really well was it defined the problem, and the Promise defines the problem, but now it’s about finding the creative solutions to navigate our way through whatever the next ten years looks like in a post-Promise world.

Over the past five years I’ve seen all those quick wins, that I thought were little wins, have been building and building and building and now when you step back and you look at it, you think – wow! I had an influence over that, I had a bit of a say in how that happened. And that makes you feel good but it also means that you don’t rest on your laurels, and you think well, what next? What’s the next boundary or barrier that we need to overcome? I could spend all day listing the things that I want to be changed but what I’ve learned is that I need to compartmentalise it. So, I need to work on what I’ve got, the support that I’ve got around me, the levers that I know that I can pull, the influence and the agency and the autonomy that I know that I have – and also the hope. The hope that if there’s enough of us with the same mindset as myself and my team, that things will change, and they will change for the better because everybody is pushing forward, in their own ways, because what works in one local authority doesn’t necessarily work in another. But people are pushing on with implementing the Promise and I hope that one day the Promise is realised.

If there was one message that I could pass on for young people in care today, it would be that it does get better. And how you feel today isn’t how you felt yesterday, or ten minutes ago, or ten hours ago. But how you feel tomorrow might be better. And I think it’s important to hold on to those moments where you feel happy, or where you feel joyful, or excited, or those moments where you laugh. Because they will come, there will be more and more, they will be more and more frequent and that they will underpin your value base, your knowledge, your skills, your understanding of yourself, and how you respond and react to different situations. You’ll get to know yourself more, you’ll get to understand yourself more. But the biggest message to hammer home is that it gets better. It does. And there’s always somebody out there that’s going to be willing to help you.

About our blogger

Beth-Anne Logan is a full time Promise development worker with North Lanarkshire Council, and is also a non-executive director for Children’s Hearings Scotland. Amongst other experience within the care sector, she previously held a position on the secure care strategic board, where she influenced and shaped the design of the secure care national standards, and co-created STARR, an organisation for people with lived experience of care. STARR provides a space for people of all ages with lived experience to come together, spend time with peers and friends, and share ideas of how to improve the secure care journey.

Talking Hope considers how thinking and talking about hope promotes better futures for young people who are identified as being at high risk. To do this, it explores the factors identified as important by young people, and the staff who support them, in achieving hope. This project is led by the University of Strathclyde and was funded in Phase I by the European Social Innovation Fund in partnership with the Scottish Government, in Phase II by the Scottish Government and the Good Shepherd Centre, and in Phase III by Scottish Government and Includem.

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