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Other views

7. We would welcome any additional views you have on our strategy and how it will affect you, or any other person.

We would welcome any views you have.
Who Cares? Scotland [WC?S] is an independent advocacy and campaigning organisation working with care experienced people. We provide direct advocacy to care experienced young people, as well as opportunities for national and local participation. WC?S aims to provide care experienced young people in Scotland with knowledge of their rights. We strive to empower them to positively participate in the formal structures they are often subject to solely because of their care experience. At WC?S we utilise the voice of the care experienced population of Scotland to inform everything we do as an organisation. Introduction Who Cares? Scotland welcomes the opportunity to consider and present how the lives of care experienced children and young people could be recognised and improved by the new Policing 2026 strategy. This response will be informed by recent research that WC?S has undertaken relevant to the work of Police Scotland, including our previous two responses submitted to Police Scotland throughout the development of the Strategic Police Priorities for Scotland. In addition to this we will refer to findings in our response to the review of Police Stop and Search in Scotland from May 2015, our evidence for the Independent Advisory Group on Stop and Search in July 2015 and research from 2014 in which we sought the views of care experienced young people on the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014. These pieces of research have involved a wide range of young people from across Scotland with various experiences of both the care system and the police.i Who Cares? Scotland believes that care experienced children and young people need to be recognised by Police Scotland and the Scottish Police Authority as a particularly vulnerable group who require dedicated support and attention. Statistics reveal that care experienced children and young people are only 0.5% of the general population but make up 33% of Scotland’s youth offender population.ii As a group, care experienced children and young people have a higher level of contact with the police compared to their non-looked after peers. It is important to note that contact with the police can occur regularly and is not always due to a child or young person displaying harmful behaviour. We know that many care experienced children first come into contact with the police under negative circumstances in the family home. Many care experienced children and young people have told us that their main interactions with the police are not due to their behaviour but from stop and searches, going missing and regular police visits to their placement. However, when a care experienced child or young person does display harmful behaviour, it needs to be understood in context of their life and past trauma. Who Cares? Scotland recognises and welcomes the efforts that are being made by the police to understand the vulnerabilities of care experienced children and young people and believes that every effort should be made to ensure that all police officers in Scotland understand the needs of care experienced children and young people and support them in any way possible. Due to the particular vulnerabilities faced by this group, and in light of Police Scotland’s responsibilities as a corporate parent, WC?S would recommend that the Policing 2026 Strategy makes specific reference to care experienced young people and care leavers. Corporate Parenting Part 9 of the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014 (the Act) identifies 24 corporate parents who have legal duties to looked after young people and care leavers.iii There are now specific duties for the Scottish Police Authority and the chief constable of the Police Service. The Act identifies the need for corporate parents to ‘safeguard or promote the wellbeing’ of these individuals. It is imperative that the concept of ‘wellbeing’ is understood by corporate parents and is central to the role they play in supporting young people. Corporate parents must also have a thorough understanding of rights and how they apply to care experienced young people. Section 58 of the Act sets out Corporate Parenting responsibilities: 1) It is the duty of every corporate parent, in so far as consistent with the proper exercise of its other functions— a) to be alert to matters which, or which might, adversely affect the wellbeing of children and young people to whom this Part applies, b) to assess the needs of those children and young people for services and support it provides, c) to promote the interests of those children and young people, d) to seek to provide those children and young people with opportunities to participate in activities designed to promote their wellbeing, e) to take such action as it considers appropriate to help those children and young people i) to access opportunities it provides in pursuance of paragraph (d), and ii) to make use of services, and access support, which it provides, and f) to take such other action as it considers appropriate for the purposes of improving the way in which it exercises its functions in relation to those children and young people. Our research on children and young people’s understanding of the Act discovered that most care experienced young people want to be meaningfully included in planning how corporate parents will operate.iv They said they wanted to help ensure that frontline services and staff were easy to access and importantly, understand fully what life is like for a looked after child. They believe this would help in the connections and level of service young people could have with corporate parents, especially those in front line services. Young people in care often lead turbulent lives, with many people coming in and out of their lives. Corporate parents have the ability to remain trusted and constant figures who provide safety and security. Listening and respecting the views of young people is vital. WC?S believes that the 2026 Strategy should recognise corporate parenting responsibilities and showcase some of the work that has already been undertaken towards realising these duties. If work can be done to integrate the work falling under the 2026 strategy with Police Scotland’s Corporate Parenting strategy this would also be welcome. Please see below for details of recommended specific actions, which we believe have the potential to sit across both strategies. Care experienced children and young people and the police Before Care - Children and young people enter care for a variety of reasons such as parental alcohol and substance misuse, domestic abuse and neglect. During their turbulent and often traumatic childhood they may have had several negative experiences with the police, from hearing family members talking critically about the police, to witnessing a parent being arrested. In our research on the Act we asked young people how they felt about the police, their responses were varied but a pattern of distrust emerged among the more negative associations. During Care - Care experienced young people have told us about frequent interactions with police. For young people resident in a Children’s Home this is sometimes due to residential staff requesting police presence in response to relatively minor incidents; the sort of incident which would not typically lead to police intervention in a family home. In a public setting, many care experienced young people tell us that they feel they are repeatedly targeted by police officers due to being known to them for minor reasons. Young people in care describe being frequently asked to comply with a police stop and search. They may feel that this is due to the police stereotyping them due to their looked after status. Young people tell us that they are not always aware of their rights and do not feel that police officers encourage or support them to understand what their rights are. For many young people the frequent, and almost always public, engagement with the police due to stop and searches is more than a simple inconvenience. It is distressing, and has the potential to be harmful to the young person’s wellbeing, sense of self and personal development. It can be a constant reminder that they are not the same as their contemporaries and that adults see them as stereotypes rather than individuals. It is also important to note that some young people feel uneasy around the police, often due to past experiences as mentioned above. This can impact upon their behaviour and may make them present as hyper vigilant in an officer’s presence, or demonstrate behaviours that could be misinterpreted as suspicious. After Care - Many care leavers state an improvement in their engagement with the police following leaving care. Some care leavers put this down to no longer fitting the stereotype of a child in care and therefore having less interaction with police. Others suggest it is because of their new living circumstances in a new area or without staff calling for the support of the police after minor incidents. It appears that the pattern of police engagement throughout a young person’s life can have a detrimental effect, regardless of the positive intention. It has the potential to distort an individual’s understanding of the role of the police. Many describe feeling that the police are not on their side and that even after little engagement with the police after leaving care they still feel unable to trust the police. However, it is vital to recognise that when young people leave care, they are often very vulnerable and it is important that they feel able to go to the police if they do not feel safe. Unfortunately, many care leavers do not achieve positive outcomes. This can be due to a variety of reasons such as a lack of stability, poor educational attainment and negative social or family relationships. While research considering the link between offending and looked after experience is limited, it is widely acknowledged that care experienced young people can be vulnerable to offending behaviour. In Scotland, 31% of adult prisoners self-identified as having been in care as a child.v Young people tell us that trusting relationships are the most important thing to them, especially in times of crisis, and the police have the power to deliver this. We know that without supportive and stable relationships it can be difficult for young people to break away from a long-term offending career path. Integrating the 2026 Strategy with the Corporate Parenting Strategy As mentioned above, we believe there are a range of actions that could sit across both Police Scotland’s 2026 strategy and Police Scotland’s Corporate Parenting strategy, allowing you to integrate the work falling under each. To demonstrate how this might be approached we have set out a range of recommended corporate parenting actions and placed these under what we believe to be the relevant 2026 Strategic Heading 2026 Strategic Heading Corporate Parenting Action Empowering and developing our people and culture. • Strengthening diversity and changing the workforce mix Corporate parenting training for all staff: The Statutory Guidance on Part 9 (Corporate Parenting) of the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014 emphasises that staff at all levels must understand their duties and be supported and enabled to fulfil them. Corporate parents should provide staff with “adequate opportunities” to learn about the care experienced population and the organisation’s corporate parenting duties. A good corporate parenting plan will include commitments to providing training for all employees, with staff participation and outcomes being properly recorded and reported upon. Ideally such training should be mandatory for all staff. Targeted recruitment of care experienced staff: The statutory guidance strongly emphasises the role of corporate parents as employers with the power to offer opportunities for work experience, training or employment. Corporate parents should consider whether specific opportunities can be created for care experienced young people and how existing opportunities can be promoted among and made accessible to this population. A range of positive actions are available that would allow Police Scotland to target recruitment of care experienced staff and thereby diversify and strengthen the workforce mix. Communities – focus on localism, diversity and the virtual world • Listening more and responding to diverse needs • Working positively with other services to support communities • Strengthening community engagement and participation – local services effectively planned in partnership with communities Adapting localism: Care experienced young people are not always well integrated into their local community. Often they face stigma and discrimination due to their care identity and many have experienced multiple placement moves meaning that they may find it more difficult to make local connections. WC?S believes that Police Scotland should explore how to adapt localism and relationship-based policing to work best for care experienced young people. Invest in our use of information and technology Data The quantity and quality of available data in relation to care experienced young people is poor across a number of areas, such as mental health, homelessness and justice. In order to help meet their corporate parenting duty of understanding the issues that affect care experienced young people, we recommend Police Scotland work to improve their data collection relating to the care experience of those taken into custody/issued warnings/etc. In addition, it may be beneficial to follow the lead of the Department of Work and Pensions and introduce care experience as a marker on the vulnerable person’s database. This would of course need to be introduced along with a procedure for identifying care experienced young people and would allow Police Scotland to introduce additional support for this group where required. Strengthening effective partnerships • Sharing data, resources, training and ideas. • Building effective networks to improve outcomes and reduce cost • Look to build partnerships for specific communities at national and local level Collaborate with other corporate parents: Corporate parents do not have to meet their duties on their own. In fact, all corporate parents are under a duty to collaborate with each other where this will safeguard or promote the wellbeing of care experienced young people. In line with this duty, WC?S recommend Police Scotland work in partnership with local authorities and relevant third sector organisations to establish and generalise best practice around when it is appropriate for children’s homes to request police presence or assistance. This issue is particularly relevant when relatively minor incidents or disruptions occur that would not typically lead to police intervention in a family home. It is also relevant to cases where young people are officially missing from care placements but their whereabouts are known to carers. We understand both these types of scenarios can have an impact on police resources and believe that police intervention is not always appropriate or productive. As well as working with local authorities to establish best practice in this area we would also recommend Police Scotland investigate whether officers currently make referrals to independent advocacy services for care experienced young people and/or encourage others to make referrals to independent advocacy. Care experienced children and young people who receive independent advocacy are supported to understand their rights and have their voices heard.

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Who Cares? Scotland