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Food and Love

by Martin Crewe, Director of Barnardo's Scotland
26 November 2018

On Friday (23rd) it was my privilege to attend the Year of Young People 'Banquet of Youth' at Easter Road.  The event was conceived, planned and delivered by young people from Barnardo's fostering services across Scotland.  They decided early on that food should be the theme and they received cooking lessons from Cyrenians volunteers so they could cook the meal on the night - a delicious macaroni cheese main and apple pudding.  They also decided that they wanted to include their carers' own families on the night and this inclusive approach was undoubtedly one reason why the Banquet of Youth attracted support from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Food is obviously one of the most basic human needs but it is also a rich topic for consideration as we all have different attitudes towards food.  For many of us it goes back to our childhoods.  My upbringing was in 1970s south London ... not a culinary hotspot.  'Meat and two veg' was the phrase at the time but even this sounds more exotic than it really was.  I can still remember the first time that our sausages were accompanied, not by the usual mashed potato, but by rice.  My brother and I looked at each other and wondered what had led our mother to this culinary expedition into the unknown.

For each of us what shapes our taste in food is a complex mix of the society we are born into, our family influence and, eventually, our own personal preferences.

Apart from the food itself there are also the rituals and routines that go along with it.  Some of my happiest moments have been sitting around the dinner table with my wife Jane and our four children now aged between 12 and 18.  Our house rules have always been no mobile phones at the dinner table, everyone speaks and no-one interrupts.  I am sure that my children will look back on the dinner table as a central feature of their childhoods.

For many people though, both children and adults, food will be a less positive aspect of their upbringing.  Right across Scotland today we are seeing a lamentable rise in the use of foodbanks - real abject poverty for far too many families, in a rich country, in 2018.

Food is not neutral.  It is emotive, personal and goes to the heart of who we are.  The fundamental review of the care system led by Fiona Duncan has taken love as its core message.  Since the beginning of time, sitting down with family and friends to share food has been a basic human demonstration of love.  Friday night's Banquet of Youth was a powerful reminder of both the importance of food and the power of love.

World Mental Health Day - ‘young people and mental health in a changing world’

by Nicki Lawrence, Policy and Public Affairs Officer – Lead Mental Health and Wellbeing Barnardo's Scotland
10 October 2018

Today is World Mental Health Day, run by the World Federation for Mental Health, and the theme this year is ‘young people and mental health in a changing world’.

The World Mental Health Day report published in September highlights bullying, major mental illness, suicide, gender identity and the effects of trauma as additional stressors which can impact on young people’s mental health*.   The report notes that:

“Some trauma is common in a lifetime but young people who do not have support systems, years of increased resilience can be affected in ways that can last for months, years or a lifetime” [sic]

In our recently published report on Rejected Referrals to child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS)**  we highlighted real concerns with the current provision of mental health support for children and young people in Scotland whose mental health difficulties stem from their adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and early trauma. The report focused on the experiences of almost 40 Barnardo’s Scotland practitioners who had supported young people through CAMHS processes.

Our staff highlighted that children who have experienced ACEs and trauma are more vulnerable to developing risky behaviours and mental health problems in later life, but that these circumstances and the environments they find themselves in are often the reason they are unable to access specialist help. This is because acceptance is often based on the external, presenting symptoms of the young person rather than what has happened to them or their experience, e.g. looked after young people who are not in a stable placement can often have a referral rejected by CAMHS.

The world is indeed constantly changing for our children and young people, but what we know as adults and professionals is also changing. We know now more than we ever have about the impact of early trauma and adversity on children’s developing brains, we know how this might impact their behaviour, their physical and mental health, and their educational attainment. But crucially we also know what helps children heal and recover. We know that safe, stable, nurturing relationships are critical and we should be using this knowledge to develop and redesign our mental health services in Scotland.

One of the key recommendations from our report was that consideration should be given to the development of an alternative service to CAMHS for children experiencing distress. This service should be rooted in children’s experiences and environment and take a trauma-informed approach.

We look forward to continuing to influence around this agenda and we welcome the international focus on trauma through this years’ World Mental Health Day.



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What is 'Low Skill' Work ?

by Martin Crewe, Director of Barnardo's Scotland
08 October 2018

Sometimes coincidence is too powerful a force to ignore.  Last Thursday I met with our Black, Asian & Minority Ethnic (BAME) staff in Glasgow in the afternoon and in the evening I was speaking at an event in Edinburgh on the changing world of work.  On the same day Theresa May was addressing the Conservative Party conference about the need to limit the immigration of 'low skill' workers ... the definition of which seems to be essentially anyone on a low wage.

One of our Asian staff who I chatted to is a project worker at our Apna service that provides support to families with one or more disabled children.  Although paid above the living wage rate, her pay would label her job as 'low skill'.  She clearly enjoys her job and puts thought into how best she can support the families she works with.  The work suits her circumstances as she has three young children of her own to look after and the job allows her to work part time and flexibly. When I asked about her future plans she said that she might do something related to her degree in biotechnology.

In the evening discussion we ranged widely about the changing world of work.  One of the developments of recent years is the idea that we should encourage employees to bring their 'whole selves' to work.  The theory is that by freeing people up to be open and honest, for instance about their mental health, they will be able to give of their best.  It is also a powerful support to the many studies that have shown a more diverse workforce leads to higher organisational productivity and effectiveness.

Labelling any job as 'low skill' is demeaning and inaccurate - there are very few jobs that are not done better by someone who is engaged and thoughtful about their work. Still worse is to imply that low skill work is done by inferior people.

I am reminded of the scene in the film Gandhi where his wife Kasturbai is reluctant to clean the toilets.  He explains that everyone should take a turn: "All work in this community is sacred, and none is more sacred than to devote ourselves to make the ashram pure by cleaning the latrines.  It is an act of worship."

Hopefully all of us who work in health and social care recognise that everything we do is people focused and every contact matters.  There may be jobs that are not as well paid as they should be but we shouldn't ever label these as 'low skill'.

Reflections from 'What Next After ACEs?'

by Martin Crewe, Director of Barnardo's Scotland
19 September 2018

On Wednesday, 19th September, Barnardo’s Scotland hosted a joint event with Kibble Education and Care Centre at the Scottish Parliament entitled What next after ACEs?

With a growing awareness of the impact of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) across Scotland and the Ace-Aware Nation conference happening on 26th of September, both organisations thought it was timely to explore areas of good practice where trauma-informed approaches are being used with children and young people as part of the response to addressing ACEs.

The original ACE study has played a huge part in providing the credible research behind what many already knew about the impact of early trauma and adversity on future life chances. As many speakers highlighted, it has also allowed for a useful and common language to talk about these issues with other professionals and the public, who may not have encountered these ideas before. We see the impact of trauma and adversity in our services every day and for our workers, taking a trauma-informed approach to working with children and families is essential.

For us this means putting children and families and their experiences at the heart of all of our work. It means taking time to build strong, trusting relationships and utilising the strengths and assets of families to overcome the difficulties they are facing. It means working with compassion, curiosity and understanding and always thinking about what lies behind the presenting behaviour or circumstance, it’s not ‘what’s wrong with you’ it’s ‘what’s happened to you’, and crucially what can we do to help mitigate the negative impact.

Dan Johnson, from our partner organisation Kibble said during his presentation, ‘empathy makes the world go round’, Angela and Martin, practitioners from Barnardo’s Scotland said in their input about schools ‘it’s who and how, rather than what’ and Maree Todd, Minister for Children and Young People, in her opening statement said ‘change comes from relationships’. All these statements cut to the heart of what trauma-informed approaches with children and families are all about, ‘relationships’.

The ACEs research tells a story of hope; it tells us that having a strong, caring, nurturing adult relationship can buffer against the impact of early trauma and help repair the damage for our children. This means that embedding truly authentic, trauma-informed practice with our children and their families should form a key part of a preventative approach to tackling childhood adversity.

Dr Lucie MacKinlay talked about her work with looked after children and how she is providing psychological support to them in a flexible way which addresses the traumatic experiences which will have led them into the care system. Dr Sandra Ferguson of NHS Education Scotland, who chaired the event, highlighted the importance of their work to embed trauma-informed practice across the Scottish workforce. I would like to thank all the speakers for their valuable inputs and Barnardo’s Scotland looks forward to continuing to drive forwards this agenda alongside Kibble and other partners.

Why I took the plunge

by Nicole Teague, Skydive participant
20th August 2018

I have always wanted to complete a skydive and I felt in doing such a big challenge, maybe someone in need could benefit from it. So I decided I would fundraise for charity. I wanted to help children in some way and when I think about it, it was infact a child that first brought Barnardo’s children’s charity to my attention.

I helped my son with a school homework project which was all about the philanthropist Thomas Barnardo. We researched the history of the charity and found it very intriguing, from how it’s evolved from the 1800s to the modern day. Reading up on how the charity now helps vulnerable children across Scotland and the UK that are faced with all sorts of problems such as poverty, abuse, homelessness, disability and mental health made my decision in choosing this charity an easy one.

The experience

I had a few dates for the skydive cancelled due to the wonderful Scottish weather, but in April 2018 I finally managed the jump. On the days leading up to it, I felt excited. On the day of my jump, I felt good. I got kitted out in my suit and we went up in a small blue plane over the Perthshire countryside. I remember once up in the air looking out at the wonderful views, I did have a moments thought before jumping of ‘who’s bright idea was this again’… but we jumped and what an adrenaline rush it was! From 10,000 feet, I had 32 seconds of freefall and the maximum speed I fell at was 123mph. The only way I can describe it is, when you first jump and are freefalling, think of having butterflies in your tummy then times that by about a million. Once the chute was open it was surprisingly peaceful. When I landed, the adrenaline took a couple of hours to subside and I felt happy to have completed the challenge.

Raising money

To raise funds for the charity, I set up my own justgiving page online and shared it out on social media. My family, friends and colleagues supported me by donating very generously which I can’t thank them enough for. I tried to come up with some other ideas to maximise donations therefore I did two bucket shakes, one at a local store and another at a football game. My 8 year old son also got involved in the bucket shakes, which was very kind of him, he really helped a great deal to raise extra funds.

Another idea for fundraising was to go through some of my old things and sell them at a boot sale donating the proceeds to Barnardo’s, which I did. I then came up with a ‘guess the name’ charity game that I passed around the office at work. The idea was to guess the name of a teddy bear (I felt this was very apt since I was raising money for kids) - I made up 100 squares on paper each with a bears name, for £1 a go, the winner won £20 and the charity received £80. It was such a hit I did two! Overall with the help of my little boy, we managed to raise a total of £1,175!

Would I recommend the challenge to others?

I would absolutely recommend the experience to others, it’s a great sense of achievement afterwards and knowing that you have helped vulnerable children along the way is rewarding in more ways than one.

Confidence in Charities

by Martin Crewe, Director of Barnardo's Scotland
27th June 2018

In 1946, Benjamin Spock published his revolutionary book Baby and Child Care. The core message was – ‘Trust yourself, you know more than you think you do’. A couple of recent meetings brought this sentiment to mind.

The first was with one of the Big Four accountancy firms where we were presented with a market analysis and advised on what the Barnardo’s USP (unique selling point) could be. It was interesting stuff but in several key areas we had additional information / insight beyond that presented by the experienced private sector consultants.

The second was with a high performing Scottish local authority where we were discussing how we could work together to improve children’s mental health. It is an area of activity where we are acutely aware that we don’t have all the answers. At the end of a wide-ranging and constructive session it was clear that the local authority didn’t have the answers either - although we are going to work together to improve the knowledge of both organisations.

In my 30 years of working for charities I have seen an awful lot of advisers and consultants who are confident that we could improve our effectiveness. Sometimes this has been based on nothing more than a perception that we don’t work in a competitive market and therefore cannot comprehend the rigour that we could gain from private sector insights. In fact, many charity staff have MBAs and understand business models – however we also understand the importance of context and the huge complexity of stakeholder relations that have to be managed in charities.

These are difficult times for charities with the Oxfam scandal coming all too soon after the collapse of Kids Company and the Olive Cook fundraising practices controversy. However, most charities are full of amazingly dedicated volunteers and staff who are ‘in it for the cause’.

One of my most profound charity experiences was telling a large group of staff that their service would be closing and they would likely be redundant. Despite the initial shock, the first four questions that the staff asked were all about the impact of the decision on the children and families they worked with. The personal impact was secondary to the cause.

There is something different about working in the voluntary sector and a shared set of values is a vital part of this. Whatever our individual charity, I believe there are tangible reasons why we all have a key role to play:

  • Proven ability to identify need and engage with ‘hard to reach’ groups
  • Independent from the state which helps build trust with some clients
  • Good at involving service users in decisions that affect them
  • Used to working across professional boundaries
  • History of innovation
  • Able to leverage funding from non-statutory sources
  • (Generally) high degree of public trust

Of course we should never be complacent but neither should we underestimate how much we know.

Diary of a Social Media Convert

by Martin Crewe, Director of Barnardo's Scotland
28th May 2018

It was my recent privilege to attend a breakfast briefing by Louise Macdonald CEO of youth charity Young Scot for the Year of Young People. Louise is a great ambassador for children’s rights and her talk was full of inspiration – one of my favourite quotes was :

It’s not about harnessing the energy and talents of young people… it’s about unleashing them.

Louise also talked about how Young Scot is now ‘digital by design’ and this reflects young people’s attitudes that there is no division between their online and offline lives. Louise herself is very active on twitter and she is regularly named as one of the most influential users of social media across all UK charities.

This took me back to a talk by Louise in 2012 when she was trying to convince a fairly sceptical group of charity leaders at an ACOSVO event that they should get active on twitter. At the time Louise had 1,800 followers which I thought was pretty impressive.

After a lot of procrastinating and a tentative start, I launched myself into the world of social media. Four years on and I am a fully signed up member of the Scottish twitterati.

Demonstrating the full passion of a convert, I have tried to persuade others to join me. However I have always felt a bit awkward about this as it is not enough to just sign up to twitter – a bit like joining a gym, the benefit comes from being active, not holding a membership card.

Twitter is all about engagement so of course you want people to follow you (otherwise you can stick to howling at the moon) but it is just as much about following others… and liking and retweeting their content. To be engaged takes effort so there has to be a commitment to make time for social media – preferably every day. I would also recommend using online tools (e.g. Twitter Analytics) so that you can learn which of your tweets generate interest and which are the digital equivalent of tumbleweed.

This makes it sound like serious work but actually twitter is a lot of fun. One of the main reasons it is fun is the variety of content. Back in 2012 Louise described how she took the conscious decision to merge personal and business input because otherwise it made her sound boring. We are all more than the person who goes to work and twitter presents the perfect opportunity to present ourselves as more rounded, interesting people – and I think this makes us more authentic when we are talking about the serious stuff.

I love seeing #ForthWatch photos, children’s pictures and people’s baking efforts. I also enjoy profound discussions and thought provoking blogs. That’s why this social media convert will keep on evangelising about the benefits of twitter.

Fostering Manager still ‘doing her very best’ for children & young people in care

Foster Care Fortnight 2018

by Kim McPherson, Operations Manager Barnardo’s Scotland Fostering, North

Undoubtedly one of the most rewarding parts of my job is finding caring and stable homes and foster carers for a children and young person. Often the journey to finding a placement can be a painful one and not just for the children and young people we support.


I sat at a dolls house with the car play mat behind me acting out a scene with little plastic dolls as actors trying to explain the unexplainable to a six-year-old girl, as to why I had taken her away from her parents and separated her from her little brother and baby sister.

You see I had been the social worker involved with the little girl’s family. From when the children had tried to wake their mother from her bed and couldn’t; when they  ran to the neighbours in their pyjamas because mum had had too much to drink; to the time this little girl had called me in terror as her parents screamed at each other and I called the police. Finally, I was the one that put them in a car and drove them to their foster carers in three separate homes because social work couldn’t find one carer who could home them all together.

So yes, I was there with my miniature doll baby, little boy and girl acting out their journey from home to care trying to explain the unexplainable. As the little girl sat in my lap she was quiet while my mind was racing. ‘Had I said the right words? What would the future be for her and her siblings? Could we do better than if we had left them?’

As I got up to go after telling the little girl when her next visit would be she took the dolls from the doll’s house and placed them into my hand.  I remember she looked at me and asked if I would look after them. My smile wobbled and I told her

I would do my very best

Sixteen-years later I carry those plastic reminders with me, of my first-ever child protection case and the promises people make intentionally and unintentionally when they work with children in the most difficult of circumstances.

I have met many foster carers and adopters in my time and whilst many have sat with children in their pain in the most difficult of circumstances, they all started with a desire to help and a willingness to learn.

If anyone reading this feels that they could do the same we would love to hear from you, and encourage you to contact your local Barnardo’s Scotland fostering service.

Anyone concerned they don’t have the right credentials to be a foster carer should check out our 10 myth busters about fostering.

Kim McPherson is Operations Manager for Barnardo’s Scotland Fostering, North, based in Aberdeen:

Barnardo’s has fostering offices in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Dundee and Aberdeen, which support foster carers across Scotland. Visit our fostering in Scotland webpage for more information.

Barnardo’s Aberdeen Fostering Service at 20 Carden Place Aberdeen, AB10 1UQ covers Aberdeen city and Aberdeenshire. Telephone: 01224 624090

Barnardo’s Dundee Fostering Service at Unit C, The Software Centre, Gemini Crescent, DD2 1TY covers Dundee city and Angus. Telephone: 01382 561900

Barnardo’s Glasgow Fostering Service at Academy Park, Building 10000, Gower Street, G51 1PR covers Glasgow city and surrounding areas. Telephone: 0141 419 4700

Barnardo’s Edinburgh Fostering Service at Birch House, 10 Bankhead Crossway South, EH11 4EP covers Edinburgh and surrounding areas. Telephone: 0131 453 8420

  • In Scotland on 31 December 2017 there were 5,252 children living with foster families
  • There are around 4,000 foster families in Scotland
  • It is estimated that a further 550 foster families need to be recruited in Scotland over the next 12 months

How can we combat toxic stress in schools?

by Nicki Wray, Policy and Public Affairs Officer
11th May 2018

The theme for this years’ Mental Health Awareness Week run by the Mental Health Foundation is stress. At Barnardo’s Scotland our services see the impact of stress on the families we work with every day, and we particularly see the impact of toxic stress and Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) on the children and young people we support.

Last week I was privileged to accompany some of our amazing Barnardo’s Scotland frontline practitioners to the Scottish Parliament to speak to MSPs from the Education and Skills Committee about the impact of poverty on children’s attainment and achievement. They talked about the difficulties for parents experiencing poverty in developing positive attachments with their children; about how growing up in poverty can mean living in a high stress environment for children; and the impact this can have on their brain development and their ability to engage in education.

Increasingly schools are being called upon to support children and young people with their mental health, as well as improve attainment and decrease the poverty-related attainment gap. This is a big ask. Our practitioners talked about the difference that can be made through partnership working and developing shared understanding between families and schools; and they talked about the importance of creating safe, nurturing, trauma-aware environments within schools which support children’s mental health and wellbeing and are responsive to their needs.

At Barnardo’s Scotland we know that the educational attainment gap will remain unless we take a whole-family approach to a child’s learning, taking into account their past experiences and their whole environment. Mental health and wellbeing underpins attainment and the ethos of a school is vitally important in supporting children who have experienced trauma and toxic stress.

So, this Mental Health Awareness Week we are asking our followers on social media to share the three words that describes what trauma-informed practice means to them.

Here are some thoughts from our practitioners as a starter for ten:

Angela Boniface – Children’s Service Manager – Attainment

Strengths-based, meaningful, responsive – trauma-informed practice is at the centre of transformative work to empower service users. Being trauma-informed is to better understand the needs of, and drivers for, each individual and how this may impact on their relationships with the outside world.

Martin Gilmore – Development Worker – Attainment

Essential, family-led, reflective – trauma-informed practice is about helping families come to terms with their experiences and allowing them the space and time to reflect on how this has impacted on them. It encourages alternative strategies and approaches to difficulties, taking a compassionate approach to children, young people and their families.

If you want to share your thoughts and experiences, keep an eye on our twitter @BarnardosScot and Facebook feeds during Mental Health Awareness Week, and the rest is over to you...

Nicki is Policy and Public Affairs Officer - lead for Mental Health & Wellbeing at Barnardo’s Scotland:

Why I took the plunge

by Hashina Sherriff, Forth Rail Bridge Abseil 2017 participant
14th March 2018

As I get older I realise you can’t be scared of doing things and it’s good to do something out of your comfort zone - that's why I decided to do an abseil! Having always fancied doing this in the past I figured that it made sense to take the leap for charity as this would not only keep me focussed and not back out but it means I am doing some good.

I chose to raise funds for Barnardo’s Scotland through my abseil as I believe they are a great charity and, as someone who is currently going through the adoption process, I know they do some fabulous work for children.


Once I was all signed up all I had to do was set up a fundraising page with a couple of pictures and a wee blurb of why I was doing this, all very easy. Donating online is something a lot of my family and friends do so it was perfect way to get sponsorships. I don’t like to badger people for money so I posted my page up onto social media and a few people shared it for me too. I also mentioned it at all the clubs I attend and run with so word got out and the donations came in!

The day itself was great!! Unfortunately my husband had to work so I drove down to Edinburgh myself and signed in at the allocated time I had been previously emailed for my abseil. I had half an hour to kill before I had to be back for instructions so I went out to watch some of the others - the place was buzzing and we had a great day for it. Back in the waiting area I met several other people who were also there supporting Barnardo’s Scotland so we had a chat and a laugh, some of them had done this before and were excited and others hadn’t so there were also some nerves. I myself couldn’t wait to get going!

We were all informed as to what would be happening next, precise instructions and very well coordinated. All suited up in safety gear we all made our way up to the bridge with a chaperone. Our gear was checked at each point to make sure we had the correct things on, that they were all fastened properly and on tight enough.

Finally, I was at the top and looking down at the sand, the place I would be abseiling down to! It was so windy I couldn’t speak but I remember being so excited and continued to be so all through the final checks and being harnessed in. The only time I was nervous, scared and thinking "what am I doing?" was when the guy told me to climb over the edge and stand on a tiny girder! Having said that, once I managed to do that (several profanities later!!) I was off!


When I got to the bottom I was all smiles because I was so delighted! The actual abseil was brilliant, I loved it and it went so fast. I would love to do it again and am trying to persuade my sister to join me!

Anyone thinking about doing an abseil this year should totally do it. It’s exhilarating and amazing. It’s not scary at all as the team are so good at making sure you are safe and they talk you through everything. If you wanted to stop and go back at any point (apart from actually on the way down the rope!) you have that option to do so, no judgement!

Hashina smashed the £185 fundraising target, raising £275 for vulnerable children and young people in Scotland!

You too could take the plunge for Barnardo's Scotland - sign up for the Forth Rail Bridge Abseil on 10th June 2018 or register your interest for the abseil on 21st October 2018 now.

The Fire Within

by Martin Crewe, Director of Barnardo's Scotland
29th January 2018

This morning I was lucky enough to attend the launch of Scotland's Fire Starter Festival: 'a series of collaborative learning events, illuminating creative, disruptive and innovative ways in which we can all transform ourselves, our organisations and the wider system'. Although still a relatively new event, it has grown rapidly in content and profile. This was underlined when Nicola Sturgeon gave the opening speech, emphasising high quality public services and community engagement.

The event then took an unusual turn as we were invited to put on headphones for the 'silent launch'. As someone who has watched W1A, my first thoughts were of the creative PR agency Perfect Curve. However, my anxiety was unjustified and it was a refreshingly different experience to listen to inspiring speakers whilst wandering around the exhibits of Kelvingrove museum.

We are lucky to have passionate leaders like Kate Polson, chief executive of Rock Trust. She spoke of the aim to end youth homelessness in Scotland within the next 10 years - not just a vague ambition but a concrete plan to do herself out of a job. Other contributors spoke movingly of their own struggles to overcome adversity and their subsequent determination to give something back so today's young people have better chances than they did.

The final thought-provoking input was from Fiona Duncan, CEO of Corra Foundation and independent chair of the Care Review. She considered how the perception of a 'fire starter' shifts with age. A middle aged fire starter is someone who challenges the system and hasn't lost the spark of youth but a young fire starter might simply be viewed as idealistic or abrasive.

Fiona talked explicitly about power and how we need to challenge the established rules, systems and language if we really want to shift the balance in favour of the people we are aiming to support. In the Year of Young People these are powerful messages for all of us to continually challenge ourselves if we are to truly transform the lives of Scotland's most disadvantaged children.

How to make a New Year's resolution you can keep

by Billy Farrell, Retail Volunteer Recruitment Manager
9th January 2018

When I broke all three of my New Year’s resolutions last year I was so frustrated with myself I swore I’d never bother with them again. And yet here we are at the start of 2018 and I’ve already done a U-turn on that decision!

A new year is just too good an opportunity for most of us to pass up to start as we mean to go on, accomplish something we’ve always wanted to, make a positive difference or simply do something of meaning and enjoyment.

So, if like me you want to make a new year’s resolution that you can keep this time, where you can make a real difference and have fun while doing it – consider volunteering in one of our 100 shops throughout Scotland!

If you need more convincing, here are a just a few reasons why volunteering in a Barnardo’s store can tick all your resolution boxes:

1. We aim to be as flexible as possible and will work around what suits you, as little as two hours a week can be a huge help
2. People of all backgrounds regardless of race, gender, sexuality, religion or circumstance and anyone from the age of 14 are welcome
3. You don’t need any previous experience as full training is provided with a variety of tasks to suit all
4. The skills, experience and contacts made can often open doors to employment and increase confidence
5. 100% of the profits made in our shops fund our vital work supporting children and young people in local communities

Yes resolutions can sometimes feel daunting, but actually they can be so worthwhile too – my resolution is to stick to mine this year! What’s yours?

To find out more about volunteering with us visit, email or call 0131 446 7005.

Billy is Retail Volunteer Recruitment Manager for Barnardo’s:

National Adoption Week Scotland 20 – 25 November 2017

by Sue Brunton, Assistant Director Family Placement Scotland
20th November 2017

Here at Barnardo’s Scotland Adoption Service we are excited to support National Adoption Week Scotland 2017. One of my proudest moments so far as the recently appointed Assistant Director for Barnardo’s Scotland Family Placement was during our September Care Inspection when we were praised on feedback from our adopters that

Barnardo's really embraced diversity and they felt valued and welcoming into the adoption process, despite not fitting the outdated stereotypical image of adopters

- quote from Inspection Report 2017.

This got me thinking that in order to celebrate adoption and the unique opportunity that it offers some of our most vulnerable children it might be helpful to bust some of the myths that still surround adoption.

Single people can adopt - TRUE
LGBTQ people can adopt - TRUE
There is no upper age limit for adopters - TRUE
You do not need to be earning a minimum income to adopt - TRUE
You can adopt if you have birth children - TRUE
Scotland needs adopters with BAME heritage - TRUE

Barnardo’s Scotland Adoption is over 38 years old and has a well-deserved good reputation within the field of adoption throughout Scotland. Approximately six years ago we added Adoption Placement to our Support Service to recruit and support adoptive families for Scottish children. The placement service has been successful in recruiting 39 adoptive parents since its inception and has been able to place 39 children in stable and loving families. This has included one single adopter with two currently in assessment and four same sex couples.

Our sector leading Adoption Support Service offers a wide variety of support to those affected by adoption and permanent care in the 14 subscribing local authorities across Scotland. Having this level of expertise in the team allows us to really understand the needs of adopters and adopted people and to provide a service that truly has the best interest of children and adopters at its heart.

During Adoption Week Scotland we will be featuring some of our adopters who have bucked the trend, busted the myths and who are providing safe, happy (most of the time!) families for life for children who through no fault of their own cannot live with their birth families.

If you want to find out more about adopting with Barnardo’s Scotland we will have an information stall at the Adoption Roadshow at the Central Library, Aberdeen on Monday 20 November from 4:00 to 7:00 pm and at Renfield St Stephens Centre Glasgow on Wednesday 22 November from 4:00 to 7:00 pm. Click the link below register your attendance

Or you can make an enquiry through our website  Check us out on twitter (@BarnardosScot) and Facebook (/BarnardosScotland) all week for the answers to your questions on adoption or follow #AdoptionweekScotland #ourchildren.

Sue is Assistant Director for Barnardo’s Scotland Family Placement:

Where do you go once you leave care?

by Kirsten Hogg, Assistant Director Policy Barnardo’s Scotland
23rd October 2017

It was just another train trip to London. I had a big bag of drinks and snacks to keep me going, and an even bigger pile of reading to get through. I’ve done a lot of reading since I started this job: policy documents, bits of legislation, articles; I’ve learned a lot about the sorts of issues that children and young people in Scotland can face. So I didn’t expect that on this journey I’d be stopped in my tracks, and moved to tears on the train, by what I read. But I was.

Jacqui Dunbar from the Children’s Rights and Advocacy team had given me a copy of the information that children and young people supported by Barnardo’s submitted to the Care Review through our postcard campaign, and their words brought to life the different issues I’d read so much about before. Reading about those issues in children and young people’s own words was incredibly powerful and inspiring, as in just a couple of sentences describing how they’d like their care system to be, they were able to convey so much about how their experiences of the current system had made them feel.

Many of the issues they raised were the same as we had heard from staff in relation to the review. For young people leaving care, or preparing to leave care, as well as the staff supporting them, there were concerns about accommodation, and the possibility of ending up homeless; the importance of enduring relationships was clear; there were comments about people leaving care without the skills they need to succeed (or survive); and the need to support young people’s mental health was emphasised.

What was different, though, was that while staff often framed these issues around legislation that isn’t being implemented, processes of decision making, or structural barriers, children and young people, while sometimes alluding to structures and processes in the care system, also gave a glimpse of the impact that ‘the system’ had had on their lives. This was particularly striking from younger children, who wrote very honestly about what is important to them, and whose descriptions of the family life they wanted really hit home (but that’s a whole other blog in itself).

The feedback from young people who have left care or are preparing to leave care was more diverse; they have more, and more complex, concerns than their younger counterparts. There are lots of comments that we can learn from, and which we will reflect on over the coming months, but there is one comment that has stuck with me. When asked what the Care Review should focus on, one young person wrote simply: “Where do you go once you leave care?” There is a danger in reading too much into this. I don’t know this young person, or anything about them, but it seems to me that this simple question conveys so much that we could usefully reflect on this care leavers week. Where do young people go when they leave care? Is there appropriate accommodation for them, and have we equipped them with the skills to live there? Where do they end up in terms of education or employment, and what have we done to help them get there? How many of them go on to interact with our mental health or criminal justice systems? How far do we accompany them on their journeys when they leave care, and what do we know about where they go on to?

Where do you go once you leave care?

Kirsten Hogg is Assistant Director of Policy at Barnardo’s Scotland:

Good Mental Health

by Martin Crewe, Director of Barnardo’s Scotland
10th October 2017

Many of us have seen family and friends experience mental health problems and the devastating impact of common illnesses like depression and anxiety. However, good mental health is not simply the absence of diagnosable mental health problems. There is now an established literature on how we can improve our mental wellbeing. So this World Mental Health Day, where mental health in the workplace is in the spotlight, I’m sharing five things that I think we should all do and my brief personal scorecard:

Develop good relationships with family, friends, colleagues and neighbours. Although I enjoy work, my family is my number one priority. Seeing my children grow up and become themselves has been a joy and they certainly help keep me grounded. I also feel very lucky to work with so many fantastic people.

Be active – as an ex-runner I certainly feel I could do more but since getting our dogs I have benefitted from the evening walk - even if I have to remind myself of this on dark wet winter nights.

Keep on learning is a big thing for me. I enjoy feeling stretched and being forced to develop new skills at work but I am also fascinated with the wider world – I still cannot get over the fact that there are 100 billion planets in the milky way.

Giving to others is a proven way of improving mental wellbeing so working for Barnardo’s is a great advantage.

The importance of ‘mindfulness’ has become much talked about in recent years – not rushing through life without stopping to notice. I am not always great at this but I do make the point of putting my work down whenever I am on a train that is going over the Forth Rail Bridge. It is a stunning view whatever the weather and a reminder of how beautiful Scotland is.

I recognise that I am very lucky and that many other people face much more difficult circumstances but I hope that I can have a positive impact on those around me.

Martin Crewe is Director of Barnardo’s Scotland:

Working with Love

by Martin Crewe, Director of Barnardo’s Scotland
22nd September 2017

If there is one word that characterises the current independent review of the care system in Scotland then that word is love.  Earlier this week Nicola Sturgeon said

we shouldn’t even be asking if love should be part of the care system

I am sure that everyone would agree with this sentiment but what do we actually mean by love?

The dictionary definition of love is usually something like ‘an intense feeling of deep affection’ and various types of love are often identified dating back to the ancient Greek philosophers.  However there is no definition which is obviously appropriate for a care setting.

Recently we sought the views of about 40 staff in Barnardo’s Scotland who are involved in providing services for children and young people in and leaving care.  It was immediately clear that love carries many meanings and different people reacted very differently with varying degrees of discomfort.  Some staff questioned how it fits with their professional training and could not recall it being discussed at all on degree courses.  There is also no reference to love in the code of practice for social service workers.

Staff were more confident in linking love to Getting It Right For Every Child and the SHANARRI wellbeing indicators – with ‘nurtured’ identified as the closest to love.

What our consultation highlighted was that our ‘loving’ engagements with children and young people vary depending on the individual’s own needs, communication style, past experiences, current state and the nature of their relationship with the person supporting them.  In some cases love will be about feeling safe with clear boundaries, in others it will be about fun, humour and hugs.  We really can’t be prescriptive about what a loving relationship should look like …

… and that is the problem in a nutshell.  We can all agree that love should be part of the care system but if we are to make it a requirement then we will need a definition.

I don’t pretend to have an answer to this challenge but I think we do need a way of cutting through all the policies and procedures to get to the heart of what we are trying to achieve for looked after children and young people.  I have often found the ‘if this was my child’ test to be a useful one – but then again we all bring up our children differently so that is pretty subjective too.  It will be very interesting to see what the Care Review comes up with !

Martin Crewe is Director of Barnardo’s Scotland:

Barnardo's Scotland welcomes commitment by Scottish Government to support Equal Protection Bill

by Martin Crewe, Director of Barnardo’s Scotland

5th September 2017

In Scotland in 2002 the Labour / Lib Dem Government proposed to prohibit the physical punishment of children under the age of three.  The proposal was rejected by a Holyrood committee of MSPs and the majority of parents also opposed a ban.  Many newspapers described the proposals as ridiculous and an unwelcome intrusion into family life.

Fast forward 15 years and a consultation has just closed on John Finnie MSP’s draft Member’s Bill to remove the ‘justifiable assault’ defence, ensuring that children have the same protection from assault as adults. Almost 75% of the more than 650 responses from individuals and organisations are supportive of the change.  Previous critics, including the media, are now giving the move their full backing.

It really does feel like attitudes have shifted.  John Finnie highlighted this in the foreword to his proposed Children (Equal Protection from Assault) (Scotland) Bill:

We would no longer consider it acceptable, for example, to allow our children to roam freely in the back of the car when going on a journey. Neither would we dream of taking them to a cinema if they had to watch a film through a fug of cigarette smoke ... Attitudes towards these and many other fundamental societal issues have dramatically changed.

Barnardo's Scotland has campaigned alongside partner organisations, including the Children and Young People’s Commissioner Scotland, Children 1st and NSPCC Scotland, for many years for children to have equal protection from physical assault.  There is also extensive evidence that children and young people themselves want this as highlighted by the Scottish Youth Parliament consultation Lead the Way.

The European Court of Human Rights has repeatedly condemned corporal punishment in a series of judgments against the UK since the 1970s. However, laws have been amended to meet the minimum requirements of the judgments, rather than to properly respect the rights of children.  The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child is unequivocal - all forms of corporal punishment of children are unacceptable.

Across the four nations of the UK there are various restrictions on the physical punishment of children, but there is no outright ban. The Welsh Government has stated its intention to seek support for legislation to end the defence of ‘reasonable punishment’ but there is now the opportunity for Scotland to take the lead.

We were delighted to hear the First Minister state the Scottish Government’s support for John Finnie’s proposed Bill during the Programme for Government announcement today (5 September) 2017. This is a huge step forward and sends a very clear message about the kind of Scotland we want to see for our children. We very much look forward to working with all parties and MSPs to ensure this crucial piece of legislation is introduced.

Martin Crewe is the Director of Barnardo’s Scotland

For more information about John Finnie MSP's draft Member's Bill go to

To read more about our work around Equal Protection go to

PATHs to happy and healthy school children

by Mairead Ewart, Children's Service Manager for the PATHS Programme UK at Barnardo's

4th July 2017

When we began the PATHS Plus project back in 2013 with 24 schools across four regions of the UK, it was hard to envisage how the programme might grow and develop over the next few years. But grow it did! When our funding from the Big Lottery’s Realising Ambition project ended in 2016, we had worked with a total of 126 schools, 23,646 children and 1379 teachers across the whole of the UK.

In Renfrewshire in 2013, we started PATHS in 10 schools, and had a fantastic commitment and partnership with Renfrewshire Local Authority. While there were many challenges over the three years, the commitment of teachers and school leaders ensured the project was a continual high priority and any challenges were met with a can-do approach. Within Scotland, the PATHS curriculum is seen as a valuable tool to develop social and emotional skills and it fitted in under the Health and Wellbeing strand of the Curriculum for Excellence, and linked to many other school-wide initiatives such as UNCRC. In 2015, we had the opportunity to grow the programme, and a further three schools began implementing the programme alongside the original 10 schools.  Over the three years, in Renfrewshire alone we reached a total of 3327 pupils between P4-P7, and a further 2500 pupils across P1-P3 also benefitted from programme support.

The impact of the programme was tested using a variety of methods, including pre and post surveys, pupil voice surveys, senior leadership surveys and training evaluations. The pre and post survey results have shown positive improvements in both children's mental health and emotional regulation, while children themselves reported improved self-management, social awareness, relationship skills and problem solving skills. The success of the programme however is not measured solely by the results, but by the commitment of the whole-school teams who have ensured that PATHS is not just a stand-alone subject, but has become part of the whole-school ethos.

Due to the positive impact of PATHS in the first cohort of Renfrewshire schools, Renfrewshire Local Authority and Barnardo’s will be rolling out PATHS to a further 14 schools from August 2017. We are extremely proud to be able to continue the work in the Renfrewshire area, and look forward to getting started in August.

PATHS is a ground-breaking project that enables children to develop fundamental social and emotional learning skills, improving the mental health of primary school pupils.

In Scotland it has been running in 13 Renfrewshire schools since 2013, and is due to be rolled out to a further 14 schools in the local authority from August, with the intention that it will be adopted by all of the primary schools in Renfrewshire. This decision was taken following the evaluation over the last three years of the schools and pupils who have been using the PATHS Programme.

For more information on the PATHs Programme, please contact

"You make the difference – but what does it really mean?"

by Alison McLaughlin, Volunteering and Community Engagement Adviser for Barnardo’s Scotland

1st June 2017

This Volunteers’ Week (1-7 June), Barnardo’s Scotland is joining the hundreds of other charities taking the opportunity to thank volunteers and remind them that “you make the difference”.

“You make such a difference”, “join us in making a difference”, “they made a big difference”…phrases I use so often that I fear they’re losing their meaning. So let me try to break it down, give it something tangible for us to grasp, give it back its identity. Because you really do make the difference and that needs to be known, understood, recognised and celebrated.

Why, you ask.

Because 12-year-old Jack had crippling panic attacks whenever he was away from his mum or sisters until Sandra dedicated hours to showing him he could play and enjoy activities with others.

Because Emma proved to be a consistent person in Tammy’s life and a listening ear when she was taken into care due to her mother’s mental health issues.

Because Ryan, 16, visibly shook with nerves, couldn’t look people in the eye and refused to work on the till until fellow shop volunteer John stood by his side continuously, sat with him during panic attacks and gave him the confidence to believe in himself.

Because Barnardo’s employs 750 staff to support 26,500 vulnerable children and young people in Scotland – and 2,650 volunteers without whom we and thousands of other charities couldn’t function.

So to all our amazing, selfless and dedicated volunteers – you make the difference and we thank you for that.

And to everyone else, remember that anyone can make a difference - you can make a difference.

We believe in children and we believe in you.

*Please note all names have been changed to protect identities

For more information on volunteering in our shops, services or events, please visit or contact

"Mental Health Strategy should be one part of a National priority"

by Kirsten Hogg, Head of Policy for Barnardo’s Scotland

11th May 2017

Mental Health Awareness Week (8-14 May 2017) should be used as a way of getting out a positive and hopeful message on the importance of mental health and the theme this year of ‘thriving not just surviving’ does just that. There is little doubt that there is much greater awareness of the importance of mental health to overall wellbeing and recent campaigns have focussed on ensuring that mental health is taken as seriously as physical health.

In this context, it was surprising that the Scottish Government’s Mental Health strategy as it applies to children and young people fell short of what campaigners and others hoped it would be.

A 10 year strategy is a chance to take an approach that could be transformational, to set out a vision of the way the world could be and what we all want to see to improve the mental health and wellbeing of our children and young people. It should also be built on where we are now, what progress has been made since the last strategy and a chance to learn from mistakes.

The Minister for Mental Health has pointed out that this is a starting point and that we need to build on what the strategy contains. Of course no strategy can provide all the answers to what is a growing problem among children and young people. All the evidence points to an increase in difficulties such as anxiety and depression amongst our children and young people and specialist mental health services - despite their best efforts - are struggling to cope. Our experience of working with thousands of children and young people bears this out.

That is why we believe that we need to be bolder. The Minister is right. The strategy is a start, but it should not be seen in isolation. Children and young people’s mental health and wellbeing should be designated as a national priority.

By sending out such a message we as a country would be saying that all parts of society need to take children and young people’s mental health seriously. It would mean looking at how we fund and commission services; how we gather and use evidence on what works (and what doesn’t); how services in the public sector and third sector work together; the role of the early years and the importance of attachment; the crucial role our schools play in promoting and maintaining good mental health; and what happens when things go wrong.

National Priority status would focus the minds of policy and decision makers, services and commissioners and allow us to be much more ambitious in what we want for children and young people. Crucially children and young people themselves would have a significant role in advising and shaping the future of services and support.

We think this is the level of ambition that Scotland needs to aim for and in Mental Health Awareness Week we can’t think of a more positive message than that.

Kirsten Hogg is Head of Policy at Barnardo’s Scotland:

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