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Read the thoughts of our team on pressing issues first-hand right here.

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: martin.crewe@barnardos.org.uk.


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: martin.crewe@barnardos.org.uk.


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 http://www.parliament.scot/parliamentarybusiness/Bills/104602.aspx

To read more about our work around Equal Protection go to http://www.barnardos.org.uk/what_we_do/corporate_strategy/scotland/region_scotland-influencing_priorities/region_scotland-equal_protection.htm


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 mairead.ewart@barnardos.org.uk.


"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 www.barnardos.org.uk/get_involved/volunteering or contact scotland-volunteering@barnardos.org.uk.


"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: kirsten.hogg@barnardos.org.uk.

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