What have been some of your favourite moments so far as Chief Exec?
The best times have been connecting with members. Regretfully that hasn’t been very much because we haven’t been able to leave the house for such a long time. One particular memory was climbing Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh as part of our Summer Programme. I got to meet some of the team I hadn’t met, but most importantly I walked with two of our 11 year old members who were so much fun to be with. I don’t think they knew each other at first, and both had different backgrounds, but they connected and chatted and were having fun, and talking about the next step in their journey which was going to high school.
Another was when our NRB met with some politicians [at Care to Connect] during Care Experienced Week. That was a brilliant day. I’ve spent so much time in the job making sure that we have the right platform to influence, particularly as we recover from the pandemic and with The Promise underway, and making sure we still had a role to be able to influence key decision makers. It was lovely to be part of that, as I saw the NRB at their best. It was fun, and you made the politicians squirm a bit which is good! It was a really engaging session and it put Who Cares? Scotland back on the map as an organisation that needs to be listened to.
Can you tell us a bit more about your family?
I talk about my dog all the time because he’s the best! He’s called Archie, he’s a Westie. He’s the biggest Westie you’ll ever see in your life, and he’s 11. I got him when I was going through a tough time and it was the best decision I’ve made. He’s been with me through lots in my life. He’s my best friend. He’s pretty grumpy and hates other dogs. But he loves other people, and his favourite place in the world is the beach.
The other love of my life is my son. He’s adopted – a member of Who Cares? Scotland – and he will come along to events. He’s 6 and a half, and we adopted him just before his 2nd birthday. He’s been with us for 5 years. I always knew I was going to adopt. The process was rightly pretty challenging. He’s got so much energy, he’s so fun, and he’s obsessed with football. He just loves life! He never does what he’s told but that’s fine. He asks lots about what’s going on. I’m really glad he’s got Who Cares? Scotland, as he’ll go through different things in his life around his identity, and he’ll want to reach out to other children who are adopted and other Care Experienced people. It’s important that he has an organisation fighting for his rights and hopefully Who Cares? Scotland will be in his school soon talking about care experience, as it’s important that he isn’t judged for it. I’m really pleased he has Who Cares? Scotland in his life.
What’s happening for Who Cares? Scotland at the moment?
Loads, and that’s the challenge! There’s so much going on.
In March, we spoke candidly to STV about The Promise, and we’re now working closely with them so that we understand what’s meant by delivering The Promise. We hear from our members that The Promise is good, but it doesn’t go far enough and isn’t happening quickly enough. Almost all of our work is making sure that happens.
We know there’s a postcode lottery on services due to how contracts are written, so there’s a lot of work being done to influence that. We’re also trying to influence policy, particularly around making sure that there’s supports available as young people leave care, as care leavers are unfortunately no longer entitled to some supports. We need to be there for them, so we’re trying to work out what that offer is and push the government to invest in that.
What’s exciting, which we hear from members and staff, is that Development Officers are starting to be able to run groups and activities again and lead out Champions Boards. We see these opportunities as being the route to our members, ensuring that they get what they need from Who Cares? Scotland. We’ve just won a couple big contracts to bring in new Development Officers, and with the new local government elections, we’re trying to push into them to get investment in local areas. We’re really focused on hearing what our members want locally, as well as nationally.
Do you have any questions for the NRB?
I would like to ask, what can we do to improve things for our members and our NRB moving forward?
Thomas: I’d like more opportunities to spend time with members. I feel there’s not been enough of that due to COVID. I’d like to meet with more members and enjoy my time with them, because I feel that’s the best way to understand what they need from us and Who Cares? Scotland.
Marissa: I would agree. It’s been my favourite part representing members, especially through our Annual Participation Programme, but it would be good to have more informal opportunities to engage with them and find out their views often.