Cared-for young people to call shots in new corporate parenting board

Sutherland councillor Linda Munro.
Sutherland councillor Linda Munro.

Young people will call the shots on a new multi-agency corporate parenting board to be launched by Highland Council next month.

The new board, chaired by councillor Linda Munro, will involve two ‘care-experienced’ young people who will help shape the structure and agenda of the board.

Representatives from NHS, police, fire service, Highlands & Islands Enterprise and the council will sit on the board, but normal conventions will be turned upside down in order to hear what the young people have to say, Mrs Munro said.

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She said: “There will be no filters on this board. We want informed and vocal young people to really tell us what’s not working, how things could be improved.

“We’ve offered the children our own personal and professional profiles, and we’re asking nothing of them- they can share information about themselves if they want.

“There will be no waiting outside the door to go into a meeting while everyone inside has the meeting.

“The board members will be told: we need your rank and professionalism, but you need to be a real person, with empathy and willingness to change a culture.”

The first meeting will take place on February 13 in Clachnaharry Children’s Centre.

Former council Children’s Champion Mrs Munro told councillors on the Care, Learning and Housing committee yesterday: “We are all corporate parents, not just Highland Council. It’s about the attainment and well-being of the children, and it will take all of us to work together to achieve that.”

The expensive residential care of looked-after children, especially when sent out of Highland, has created a projected budget overspend of more than £3m this year.

Councillors yesterday discussed at length the council’s plans to reduce these costs by keeping looked-after children in Highland, preferably at home, or with relatives, or foster carers.

Karen Ralston, the council’s interim head of children’s services said the new residential facility in Fodderty, Arach House would help care for children within the council’s own resources.

She said: “Our goal was to bring back 12 children from out of Highland, and we’ve retuned 11 so far. By the start of the financial year it will be 12, but there are now another 8 looking to return between now and June.”

Depute leader councillor Alasdair Christie said: “It’s clear we have to do something different to ensure better outcomes for the children. We need to inform community planning, NHS, police, prison services, get them all involved and get money on the table for this. It’s not just a Highland Council problem, but we must be a catalyst.”