As we move towards Christmas and the New Year, it seems a good time to reflect on the progress the City Council has made during 2014 in improving the lives of our looked after children and young people through the implementation of our corporate parenting policy. We aim to ensure that children and young people who are or have been looked after have the same opportunities as their peers who have not. I see this as one of my core roles as Chief Executive and I am keen to ensure that we all work together to achieve more positive outcomes for our looked after children and young people.
This year has seen the introduction of the Champions’ Board and the creation of the Young People’s Participation Group. The latter invites looked after young people to take part in activities and gives them an opportunity to say what matters to them and to raise any issues they are dealing with.
The Champions’ Board gives looked after young people the opportunity to talk directly to decision makers about how best to remove the sometimes complex barriers that can get in the way of improving their lives.
At the same time, the Council is looking to develop and increase work experience and internship opportunities under our family firm policy that supports looked after young people into positive and sustained work destinations. 2014 has seen the introduction of the 12 week work experience programme within the Building Services team at Kittybrewster. You may remember that I blogged about its launch. The first two young people who took part in the programme found the experience invaluable and I’m delighted to say that it has helped them to find jobs. The work experience model will now be used as the foundation for more family firm internship opportunities across the Council.
The year has also seen the launch of Aberdeen Guarantees for all young people in the City aged between 16 and 24 to provide further opportunities in learning, employment or training to help increase positive destinations for them. In addition, a virtual school is being developed so that we can monitor and progress the educational attendance and achievement of looked after young people.
Aberdeen Foyer has also been working closely with some of our looked after young people and held their Foyer YOSCARS 2014 Awards in September. The awards were given for improved attendance at school, attaining qualifications, increased commitment to responsible behaviour in the community, volunteering, arts projects, progressing to college or training and working.
Next year the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014 will give all those who are aged 16 and in care the right to stay in care to the age of 21 and will extend the support to be available to those in care up to the age of 26.
It has been a tremendous year of progress and this vital work will go on in 2015. We have a shared responsibility across the Council to do all we can to improve the lives of our looked after children and young people and I am confident that together we can make sure they all have the opportunity to fulfil their potential.