Improving continuing care

As a member of Holyrood’s Education Committee, I recently took evidence on the Independent Care Review. I was deeply concerned to hear about the shockingly high rate of homelessness amongst care experienced young people – with evidence suggesting that around 30% of care experienced children become homeless.

As well as the structural issues that contribute to this, there is also a darker cultural issue to be confronted here. As Kevin Browne of the Independent Care Review put it, it can seem that we are currently “taking children from abuse and neglect, bringing them into the system and then returning them into a very disruptive and unsupportive environment.”

We don’t do that with our own children – indeed even 40 year old MSPs still go back to their Mums for support sometimes.

Kevin Browne’s words have been on my mind a lot since we took that evidence. At last week’s Education Committee meeting, I took the opportunity to ask Minister for Childcare and Early Years, Maree Todd, what we can do collectively as a society about the culture that allows for our care experienced children simply to be abandoned as soon as they become young adults.

I was encouraged to hear that all Scottish Ministers are raising the profile of corporate parenting as part of their routine business with corporate parents, as well as finding out about and sharing stories of good work and best practice.

In addition, all corporate parents (organisations or individuals in power who have special responsibilities to care experienced and looked after children and young people) have to provide plans and report to Scottish Ministers on how they’re carrying out their responsibilities.

As a society, we have a collective responsibility towards young people in care. As the Care Review continues, I hope that this can be an opportunity to enact real and fundamental cultural change when it comes to loving and caring for all of our young people.

Protecting Scotland’s Parliament

The biggest news from the Parliament last week was the Scottish Government’s EU Continuity Bill passing at Stage 3. As I have written about in previous columns, this bill is crucial to protect Scotland’s Parliament from a Westminster Tory power grab. In the event that Holyrood cannot consent to the UK’s Withdrawal Bill – no Scottish Government worth its salt could consent to something that weakens the Scottish Parliament – it prepares Scotland’s laws for the impact of leaving the EU.

That’s why I was proud to join colleagues from across the Chamber – with the exception of the Scottish Tories – to vote to protect Scotland’s Parliament from a blatant Westminster Tory attempt at undermining devolution.

The Scottish Tories were the only party to vote against this legislation to protect Scotland’s devolved powers after Brexit – after trying to force through a wrecking amendment to make Holyrood subordinate to Westminster.

The Tories opposed the Scottish Parliament in the first place, and this shows that they are still no friends of devolution – they think they can do anything they want to Scotland and get away with it.

With Ruth Davidson humiliated by Theresa May’s betrayal over fishing, and her MPs reduced to tossing haddock into the Thames in protest, it’s never been clearer that Scotland’s interests are an afterthought to the UK government. That’s exactly why we need a strong Scottish parliament – something that I will continue to defend.