I spoke and participated in the Centre for Research on Families and Relationships' seminar on human rights and children’s rights. The event attracted 40 participants and stimulated thinking around the opportunities under the Human Rights Act and a consideration of the Rights of Children and Young People Bill.
I addressed the MARS conference to an audience of 150 practitioners. It was a really useful audience to address on the blether and the particular importance to children and young people of the word ‘safe’. I could not stay for the conference as travel arrangements had changed.
I met with Angela Constance, Minister for Children and Young People. Elizabeth Sloan was present. The single topic was Child Trafficking and it was a productive meeting, laying the ground for follow-up on the publication of the EHRC publication on 28th Nov. There are several points to follow up when Stefan returns.
I met with Stewart Maxwell, MSP and Convenor of the Education and Culture Committee. This was an introductory meeting with Stewart in his new role with me filling him in on the Strategic Plan, and I agreed to follow up at a later date.
Sheila and I visited Angus Council. We initially went to Maisondieu Primary where I spoke to and was questioned by over 100 pupils. They were very well prepared and had spent considerable time on the questions to be asked.
We went onto Brechin High School and participated in a meeting of the 25 Angus School Council representatives from seven or eight secondary schools, where they were planning a consultation day with pupils. We then had a session with the head teacher and six pupils from Brechin High, outlining their (very positive) views of the school. There is potential to link into Schools and Youth Councils as a way of communicating between the Commissioner and tapping into representative groups across Scotland. There was also the opportunity to inform the School Council of some concerns about the town environment raised by the pupils in Maisoindieu Primary.
We met with Neil Logue (Director of Education) and Robert Peat (Director of Social Work and Health). The meeting provided the opportunity to discuss the blether results and work plans, and prompted a challenging angle on the educational attainment / achievement area of work. It may be worth revisiting this as the work unfolds. There was considerable discussion around the strengths and limitations of legislative changes.
Cathy and I visited East Ayrshire Council and met with Graham Short (Executive Director of Education and Social Services) and Susan Taylor (Head of Children and Family Services). I informed them of theblether results and the work programme. Susan talked about the work of the Violence Reduction Unit that they were involved with; it will be a point of follow-up on the domestic abuse agenda. In the discussion of legislation there was agreement that there may be issues around funding and there was no appetite for structural changes.
Cathy and I visited St Joseph’s High School and engaged in discussion with 30 pupils who had prepared a presentation on a pupil’s view of the school activities – interesting perspectives on higher education fees and the relative importance of young children: ‘they just need some colouring-in books and pens’.
Cathy and I visited the adjacent St Andrews Primary (shared campus), to be piped into and around the school and up the aisle of the packed assembly hall – quite the grandest entrance made so far.
I spoke to at least 200 pupils, informing them of my role, and then went on to host a Q&A with another 30 pupils, including some from the nursery school.
Cathy and I attended a Continuing Professional Development event for all primary teachers in South Ayrshire. I spoke twice, to a combined audience in excess of 500 teachers. The main topic was the results from A RIGHT blether and there were some Q&As, including some querying of the low participation levels in South Ayrshire (at 1.5%, the lowest in Scotland).
I visited East Lothian Council and met with Don Ledingham (Executive Director of Education and Children’s Services), Ronnie Hill (Head of Children’s Services) and Tom Shearer (Head of Community Wellbeing). I outlined the results from A RIGHT blether and the work plan from it. Don informed that he had undertaken his own blether using the materials provided and met with 160 pupils to discuss the outcomes. The discussion led to identifying common ground in the work area of educational attainment (pilot work is already underway in East Lothian on exclusions), some suggestions around domestic abuse (telephone helpline and young people’s tolerance of abuse), and interesting developments in terms of early years (Early Development Instrument).
Emma and I attended the launch of the YMCA playzone in Cumbernauld. There were 20 children and 30 adults present to celebrate the event and to pay tribute to the longevity of the project, which has served the area for more than 30 years and been able to adapt to changing demands during that time.
Cathy and I visited a Homestart Project in Pollokshaws, Glasgow where we met with five mums and engaged with the mobile crèche serving the group. We also had the opportunity to learn about the work of Homestart and promote the uptake of 200 Wee Blether materials.
Stefan and I met with Michael Connarty, MP. Michael has an active interest and is closely involved in trafficking issues. This was a most useful discussion with several follow-up points of action.
Nico and I visited East Renfrewshire Council, meeting with senior officials to discuss A RIGHT blether, the work streams and the legislation – potential follow up on the attainment agenda and interest ofHMIE. There was lots of discussion around the potential for legislation and interplay with structures; a useful reminder that East Renfrewshire is covered by Greater Glasgow Health Board.
We visited Our Lady of the Mission Primary School where we met the eight members of the School Council – useful suggestion for games making our website more interactive, and then on to meet with at least 40 pupils to thank them for the involvement in A RIGHT blether. We then went on to visit Woodfarm High School to meet with at least 15 pupils to thank them for A RIGHT blether and discuss our work – useful suggestion regarding school ambassadors to promote ongoing contact with this and other schools.
Emma and I visited Polmont YOI. This was primarily to follow up on the animation produced by some of the young men in the YOI, although it also provided the opportunity to hear about the work ofBarnardos’ Plan B project. The animation was excellent and the discussion very lively – issue for follow-up for SPS in terms of racial awareness.
I visited St Thomas Aquinas School, addressing an audience of at least 100 young people and 100 adults. The prize-giving was an opportunity to celebrate the achievements of the school pupils.
I met with Mike Foulis and Lesley Fraser (both Scottish Government). This was an introductory meeting for Mike and I, and the main discussion was around the legislation potential and limitations.
Stefan and I visited Fife Council and met with Stephen Moore (Director of Social Work) and Ken Greer (Director of Education). The agenda included the results of the blether and work flowing from it, with some useful contacts to follow up in terms of educational attainment and disability research. There was also a discussion on the Children’s Services Bill, with the main issue about whether there was a need or not for legislation.
I met with Edinburgh Council senior officers Sue Bruce (Chief Executive), Gillian Tee (Head of Children Services) and Michelle Miller (Head of Social Work Services). The meeting was sufficient to discuss the proposed legislative changes, although there will be a need to follow up – potential for the school attainment agenda.
Cathy and I visited Newark Nursery in Port Glasgow. This was a delightful visit as we met with children and 25 parents who had come to hear about the work of the office and to see the work that the children had produced as a result of A RIGHT wee blether.
Cathy and I met with senior officers of Inverclyde Council including Albert Long (Director of Children Services), Rab Murphy, Wilma Bain and Angela Edwards. They made several links with the work programmes, notably another local authority that has schools in poor areas performing well. We had a wide-ranging discussion on the legislation, mainly around the barriers to joint funding, and structures to deliver.
Emma and I visited Yorkhill Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Glasgow. We met with the Rights of the Child Group, a multi-agency group that has been meeting in the hospital since 1995. We were shown around the hospital by two young people who talked about the consultation with children and young people in the planning of the new hospital.
I met with the Multi-Agency Resource (MARS) team, including the Scottish Child Care Protection Network (SCCPN), based in Stirling University – Beth Smith, Catriona Laird, Fiona Mitchell and Jane Scott. There are numerous points of overlap with the work of MARS and SCCPN and I expect further contact in future.
I spoke at the Stevenson Symposium on ‘Citizenship and Young People’ at Glasgow University. There were 40 participants, mainly students, and it was another opportunity to speak about the blether.
I attended one of the five Scottish Government events considering the proposals for legislation in the next session of parliament. I found the event interesting from a number of perspectives: the views of the participants, the presentations from government and the general approach adopted with regard to the proposed and potential legislation.
Cathy and I launched a RIGHT wee blether from Tannochside Nursery in North Lanarkshire. The nursery hosted a Glow meet and there were at least 280 children involved across Scotland - we got an inquiry from Shetland as to where we purchased the puppet polar bear. Some gems of comments from the 15 children involved on camera.
I participated in an online demonstration of a software package that can assist in campaigning. I was impressed with the capacity of the system, although further thought would need to go into how you attract supporters to your particular campaign and what exactly is the campaign issue. I expect this to form part of the considerations around the response to the blether result of promoting respect for children and young people and challenging negative images.
Gillian and I visited West Dunbartonshire. We met with Terry Lanagan (Director of Education) and Ann Ritchie (Director of Children’s Services). I had the opportunity to feed back on the results of a RIGHT blether and the Strategic Plan. We also had a lengthy discussion about the government plans for legislation. Ann told us about the wide ranging responsibilities she carries under her remit, including health. Terry informed us that he chairs the Joint Strategy Group.
I spoke at the launch of the Who Cares? Scotland’s anti-stigma campaign in Ayr. This was a useful opportunity to follow up contacts from the recent meeting with officials the week before. I met with six young people from care, who participated in the launch.
Stefan and I met with Phil Raines and Scott Wood to discuss matters and seek clarity on some aspects of the thinking on the Bill of Rights for Children and Young People.
Renfrewshire visit. I first addressed a group of 100 pupils at St Mirren stadium. This was the launch of an annual consultation and engagement event to inform the development of children’s services in Renfrewshire.
I then went on to meet with senior managers, including Robert Naylor (Director, Education and Leisure Services), Susan Bell (Education, GIRFEC implementation), Shona Glasgow (Integrated Child Services Officer), Michelle McCargill (SW Senior Manager). The discussion around the legislative proposals was informative, particularly in terms of funding barriers, as was the opportunity to give details of the work areas from the blether.
Stefan and I visited Bathgate Academy and addressed a group of 100 senior pupils at assembly, thanking them for their involvement in a RIGHT blether and informing them of the work as a result. We spoke to a smaller group of six pupils from feeder primaries who had also taken part in the vote, including Blackburn Primary who informed us that they had submitted 59 votes, making the total 74,059. We also met around 20 pupils of the School Council and took part in a class of 15 pupils discussing politics – a very full visit indeed.
I briefly called in on the launch of the Centre for Excellence for Looked After Children.
South Ayrshire visit. I met with Senior Officers in South Ayrshire - Harry Garland (Executive Director, Children and Communities), Louise Long (Acting Head of Children and Family Services), Alison McLeod (Performance and Business Manager), Nicola Hunter (Inspection and Quality Assurance), Gary Balshaw (Press Officer), Kenny Leinster (Head of Community Care) and Fiona McClair (School Management). The meeting time was squeezed, as we needed to travel for a school visit. However, it provided a very useful opportunity to discuss the forthcoming legislation and to inform the members of the action from the RIGHT blether results, mainly focusing on the issue of domestic abuse.
I visited Colmonell Primary school. I spoke to a group of 30 children, including some from neighbouring schools. We were a wee bit late, although the pupils were patient. I gave general information about my role, followed by an interactive Q&A.
I met with Senior Managers from NHS Health Scotland – Laurence Gruer, Ann Kerr and Monica Merson. It was helpful to gain a better understanding of the work of NHS Scotland, and to identify areas of common interest. I expect to meet again to further develop links.
Cathy, Maire and I met with Robert Nicol and Kathy Cameron (both COSLA). The purpose of this meeting was to discuss engagement with COSLA and the opportunities to address the COSLA Leadership Group and Education Sub-Committee. It also provided an early opportunity to exchange notes on the recent legislative announcements and we agreed to follow up before the end of the first consultation period.