Corporate parenting: what it is and why it matters

20 January 2015

From April 2015, several organisations and individuals in Scotland will become corporate parents― including Scotland’s Commissioner for Children and Young People.

The corporate parenting approach has been outlined by the Scottish Government for a number of years, but has recently been built on, increasing the number of corporate parents Scotland has and formalising their duties within the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014. It’s been introduced to improve the lives and futures of some of the country’s most vulnerable young people.

However, corporate parenting can be a confusing term. Many people of all ages are still unclear what it means, and what responsibilities corporate parents will have in practice.

What a corporate parent is

A corporate parent is an organisation or person in power who has special responsibilities to care experienced and looked after children and young people, a group that includes:

  • those in residential care
  • those in foster care
  • those in kinship care, who live with a family member other than a parent
  • those who are looked after at home.

In simple terms, a corporate parent is intended to carry out many of the roles a parent would. They may not be able to provide everything a loving parent can, but they should still be able to provide the children and young people they’re responsible for with the best possible support and care.

The concept is intended to encourage people and organisations to do as much as they can to make sure children and young people feel in control of their lives and able to overcome the barriers they face.

A complete list of corporate parents in Scotland from April 2015 can be found on Who Cares? Scotland’s website.

Why corporate parenting matters

Children and young people who are care experienced or who are looked after have the poorest outcomes of all children and young people in Scotland. Evidence suggests that:

  • 50% of the adult prison population were looked after
  • 30% of looked after children become homeless
  • 50% of looked after children have a mental health issue
  • 4% of care leavers go onto higher education

Corporate Parenting as a concept exists to try and improve these outcomes, and to improve the level of respect people have for the rights of care leavers and looked after children and young people.

Corporate parents and rights

Corporate parents need to make sure the rights of the children and young people in their care are respected. They should do this by:

  • considering their wellbeing
  • assessing their needs
  • promoting their best interests
  • making sure their voices and opinions are heard
  • providing opportunities for them
  • providing advice and assistance when they’re needed
  • making sure services are easy to access for them.

As well as this, corporate parents must have a strategy for each local authority area in Scotland. This must be easy to understand and to access.

They should also work with other corporate parents, and share responsibility for acting on behalf of the children and young people in their care. Corporate parents should work together to support these children and young people, and should jointly:

  • share relevant information with each other
  • make sure their services are properly coordinated
  • fund appropriate activities on behalf of children and young people in their care
  • publish plans about how to get better at helping the children and young people in their care.

How a corporate parent’s performance is checked

Corporate parents must report to Scottish Ministers on how they’re carrying out their responsibilities, and must follow the guidance these Ministers issue on how to carry out their duties. Ministers will report every 3 years on how well Corporate Parenting is working in Scotland.

Where we are now

As we head towards April 2015, it’s clear that people still need to think about how Corporate Parenting will work in the future.

We need to be clear how Corporate Parenting as a concept will work for people who work in health, housing and education.

We also need to be clear about how Scotland’s corporate parents will work together effectively to ensure they’re doing the best they can for the children and young people in their care.

In our office, we’re starting to plan how we can help the Commissioner carry out his duties as a corporate parent. Our plan will be published when it’s ready.

We hope to help other corporate parents in adopting a rights-based approach to developing their own plans and strategies.

We recently had training from Who Cares? Scotland that helped us recognise the responsibilities that go along with being a corporate parent.

We’re excited by the opportunity to help make things better for care leavers and those who are looked after, but we’re also aware of the challenges Corporate Parenting brings.

We are hopeful, that corporate parenting will continue to move from a concept to a reality and will go some way towards improving the lives of children and young people in the future― and towards the realisation of their rights.

If this happens, it will itself be a positive outcome for Scotland.