When aspiration becomes reality

This blog is courtesy of Jimmy Paul, a totally awesome young man who was a recipient of a Life Changes Trust Aspirational Award.  

It was September 2016 and I was sifting through my emails at work.  At the time, I was a manager at NHS National Services Scotland.  I saw an email from my former ‘executive coach’ from when I began my career in the health service, as part of the NHS Graduate Management Training Scheme, and I smiled.  She was reaching out to let me know that a Diploma in Executive Coaching was taking place in Scotland through the Academy of Executive Coaches (AoEC).  She felt that I had the passion and skills to thrive on the course, so she wanted me to consider undertaking this Diploma.

I felt absolutely honoured- probably because receiving executive coaching was life changing for me.  It helped me to be more confident, to own my care identity and to realise that my drive and passion lay in the care sector.   It was instrumental in me reaching a place of congruence in my life, and in focusing on my ongoing development as a person.  And she felt that I could learn coaching skills to help others to achieve transformative changes in their lives. What a huge compliment!

I was very interested in this course for all of the above reasons but sadly, I knew that taking part in this Diploma just wasn’t going to happen.

I replied to her saying that I wouldn’t be able to undertake the Diploma because I wasn’t sure that I’d be supported by my employers to complete it.  Within this response was a more significant reason; the diploma would cost several thousands of pounds.  Even though I worked in a decent paying job at the time, there was no way that I’d be able to afford that.

You see, I’m care experienced.  From the age 11, I spent over seven years in foster care where I was born, in east London.  My experience was extremely tumultuous; I had abusive foster carers and a difficult stay in residential care, before making the big move to Scotland, to study at university.

Despite all of those years under the care of the state, I graduated from University with no good relationships with any of my Corporate Parents, and with no savings.  Not only that, but I hadn’t been supported to learn basic skills which I would need for the rest of my life.  Housework, budgeting, navigating scary systems like University enrolment or student finance; the list goes on.  I had to learn these things myself and my flatmates at University will attest to my struggles with budgeting, cooking and messiness (which, to be fair to me, improved a lot over the years!).

Almost everyone I know has had significant support with these life skills from their families.  Same with their rent, mortgage deposits, jobs, their time at university, weddings, etc.

And I want to be clear that I am really, genuinely glad for them.  That’s how it should be.

But I also want to highlight that I didn’t, and won’t ever, get that same support.  I don’t think care experienced young people consistently do. The last thing I want from anyone reading this is pity, but I do think it’s important for people to know that the emotional and financial supports available to most, weren’t (and aren’t) available to me.  And that it can take a long time to build that secure foundation.  I’m still doing it at 27!

That is a pretty long winded way of saying that I didn’t have the money to complete the Diploma in Executive Coaching because everything I do is geared towards building the foundation which I’ve never really had.

Fast forward a few months and I had continued to angle my career towards the care sector.  I had written a bunch of articles in the Guardian, had the pleasure of speaking and volunteering at events for Who Cares? Scotland and I had just accepted a job offer at CELCIS, to start my career in the care sector as a Consultant for Permanence.  The benefits of me receiving executive coaching were being realised in these really key parts of my life!

Being quite active on social media, I started to follow a bunch of twitter accounts who were big in the care sector.  Laura Beveridge, tick.  Lemn Sissay, tick.  Life Changes Trust (LCT), tick.

In following the latter, I stumbled across the Aspirational Awards being promoted on twitter:

“The Aspirational Awards scheme is a young people-led individual grants fund aiming to empower care experienced young people aged 21-26 to think big about their future and transform their lives with a significant grant to help them reach their best potential.” 

How exciting.  I had an opportunity that I could really make count here!  I could learn some skills which would be so relevant to myself and my new employers.

And then it dawned on me.  Perhaps the Aspirational Awards could enable me to complete the Diploma in Executive Coaching?

I emailed the LCT Advisory Group and asked if that idea sounded suitable against their criteria.  Thankfully, I had a very encouraging response which welcomed my application.  So I went for it.

I found the application process to be robust, but not invasive.  Professional, but not hostile.  It felt like it was focussed on building on my strengths throughout, and like it wasn’t trying to trick me.  This enabled me to put a lot of thought and effort into my application and to ensure I was clearly articulating the things that the assessors wanted to hear.  I hit submit…

A month or so later I received a call from one of the LCT Advisory Group members, Rosie.  She was calling with good news – I was successful!  I could tell that she was overjoyed for me which was so, so nice.  She also wanted to talk about the logistics around payment of the bursary, to give me feedback on my application and to welcome my views on the application process.

A couple of weeks later I realised that I had made a really silly mistake in my application – I forgot to add on VAT to the cost of the Diploma, which meant that it would actually cost a fair bit more than I had applied for.  Before beating myself up about this oversight too much, I thought I would email the Funding Manager for the Aspirational Awards to see if the amount I requested could be adjusted to include VAT.

Much to my joy, the whole issue was sorted that same day, with no panic whatsoever.  Apparently, VAT catches a few people out and they had anticipated this happening.  How very professional. And relieving! I received my Aspirational Award by bank transfer all in good time, so I felt truly ready to start the Diploma safe in the knowledge that the finances were all fine.

About a week before the Diploma was due to start, I received a surprise parcel through the post.  It was a pack of goodies from the LCT Advisory Group!  I had a clipboard, some pens and pencils, a notepad and other bits and pieces.  It also included a message of encouragement for the course ahead.  What a lovely, warm surprise and what a great idea.  With wind in my sails, I started the Diploma, knowing that the LCT Advisory Group were there for anything that I could possibly need along the way.

It was a phenomenal course which was so well run.  I learned lots about myself, and about how I can work best with others.  I made nice connections on the course – people who I would say are now friends.  I learned the skills required to be an executive coach, whilst acknowledging that reflection and self-improvement are really important aspects of coaching.

And I’m delighted to share that after a challenging assessment process in July, I found out that I passed!

This Diploma will open many doors for me.  I currently coach two clients, which is great experience.  In the future, I will be able to be an executive coach; perhaps continuing to do this alongside my career or perhaps as a full time thing.  People who know me will know how passionately I feel about the potential for coaching children and young people; there’s a lot of talk about love in the care system just now and to me, love is all about talking about what young people want, and building on their strengths to help them to realise their potential.  Coaching, by definition, should achieve both of these.  And I will champion that.

Completing the Diploma has had a positive impact on my life and my career.  But these impacts aren’t just sitting with me; they’re reverberating across the care sector through me, and will continue to do so as my career takes shape.

I am so unbelievably grateful that I was chosen for an Aspirational Award.  Part of me didn’t feel worthy of applying.  Why? Because I know that I have a fair amount of stability in my life, maybe more than some care experienced adults my age.

But I am so glad I was one of the people chosen because there is no way that I would have had this opportunity otherwise.  And I can say with real confidence that the impact of this Diploma will stretch across the rest of my career and life.

Thank you, LCT.

(Note from Editor: We are all so proud of Jimmy Paul and his achievements, and it has absolutely been our honour to meet and work with him. #happyfunder)

Imagining A Brave New World

This blog is courtesy of SallyAnn Kelly, CEO of Aberlour

‘Never give children a chance of imagining that anything exists in isolation. Make it plain from the very beginning that all living is relationship. Show them relationships in the woods, in the fields, in the ponds and streams, in the village and in the country around it. Rub it in.’  Aldous Huxley

5 days away from the ‘day job’ including a residential weekend seemed like a big ask.  5 days of time with people I barely knew.  5 days on systems leadership. My initial thoughts on the invitation from the Life Changes Trust, to be honest, centred on how I might be able to say ‘no I’m just too busy’.  For those of you who know me you will understand that was never actually going to happen, especially after I spoke with Heather Coady who kindly talked me through the thinking behind the course and what she wanted to achieve.  I got curious, very curious, and was enthused by the prospect of bringing 16 people together from across the public, higher education and 3rd sectors to begin to imagine how we might play a role in shaping thinking and improvement in our systems for looked after children.

Day 1 of the course was like many other courses – a process of getting to know each other, building trust and challenging us to step outside of our comfort zones as well as testing the waters for much of what was to come in the residential weekend planned for just a short few weeks ahead.  

That first day, though, differed in one important and profound way, for it was on that day that our true task was set, and set very clearly, by a group of care experienced young people.  Quite simply, their ask was ‘how do we put love and relationships at the heart of the care system?’  Another pointed, but fair, question was ‘what are you actually going to do about making things better?’

Some answers to this challenge, we hoped, lay in the group and we knew that uncovering those potential solutions would involve a lot of introspection, honest conversations and respectful challenge to ourselves and each other.

Our residential weekend took place in the beautiful surroundings of Ardoch House, a picture perfect venue, made more so by the ‘taps aff’ weather we enjoyed.

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Systems leadership encourages curiosity and people to actively notice what is happening around them.  This was a welcome reminder from my perspective to consciously practice those techniques and reflect on how I can normalise them in my daily work.  It was also an opportunity to begin to imagine what our own ‘brave new world’ of care could look like and what bold steps were needed to start us on our journey.

Our time in Ardoch saw us engage in a variety of different learning opportunities, including action learning sets,  and drama workshops.  All of this was aimed at how we can be the best possible version of ourselves.

The work took us into unexplored territory for some, and the approaches encouraged trust and understanding within the group.  It was heartening to notice that the more introverted group members quickly found their voices.   Our time together didn’t always feel like work, though, and there was much fun and laughter amidst the thoughtful reflections and soul searching that went on.  I will be forever thankful for the memories from our last night when members of the group role played their ‘best selves’ in comedic styles. Kate Rocks – your OSCAR is on its way!!

The final day of our residential culminated in a presentation to the young care experienced group when four groups of the participants outlined our learning from the course and set out what our bold steps would be after the residential.  Some great suggestions came through, all of which had children and young people at their very centre. These included how we put children’s rights at the heart of what we do and how we create more meaningful involvement of children and young people in inspection and improvement.

I’ve thought carefully about how I can articulate the learning from all that we have done over the four days we were together and I hope you have a flavour of some of what happened.  My ‘take aways’ from the experience so far are around the deep connections that were made between people in the group.  Whatever our brave new world looks like, one certainty is that the health of that world will be determined by the quality of relationships of those who inhabit it.

Effective change will always be driven by humans and human connection – systems leadership understands this well.  If relationships are not at the heart of the wider system how can we expect them to be at the heart of our face to face engagement with children and young people?  We talked extensively about positive relationships and the part compassion, nurture, empathy and guidance play in our development as humans and how we embed these values in our care system.  We also talked about love and the need to resist the simplification of that as a concept, whilst simultaneously embracing all of the different aspects of that love. It seems to me that we have important choices to make as we move forward with our Review of the Care System.

I am reminded of a powerful quote from Bruce D Perry

Fire can warm or consume, water can quench or drown, wind can caress or cut. And so it is with human relationships: we can both create and destroy, nurture and terrorize, traumatize and heal each other.’

So with one more day to come together formally as systems leaders, I hope that we can continue to strive to be the quenchers, the creators, the nurturers and the healers – in doing all of that we will demonstrate what love is actually about.

This experience will prove, I am sure, to be a transformative one for many of us. It is one The Life Changes Trust should seek to repeat for other sector leaders.

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SallyAnn Kelly, CEO, Aberlour

Empowerment Grants for Care Experienced Young People

Recently I had a planned stay in hospital. It was an eye opening experience in a number of ways.

I suppose the big thing I noticed was how quickly I lost my usual confidence. In the hospital environment, I had no real expertise, and I was in a vulnerable condition – dependent on others and temporarily unable to do even the most basic tasks for myself.

This was a shock, since I’m used to thinking of myself as a pretty competent person. I haven’t always had masses of confidence but I’ve worked hard, learned from my mistakes, listened to others and probably most importantly, I’ve just about conquered my fear of failure.

One of the things I have learned in this job is that, for care experienced people, even those well into adulthood, lack of confidence is a key issue. It can lead to feelings of self-doubt, of not quite being up to mark, which often never really goes away.

I’ve met people with care experience who are highly successful in their chosen field, inspiring role models, who still battle with feelings of inadequacy.  I recently met a young woman who left her first job after a few months, even although it was a great opportunity, because she was convinced that she would be fired anyway. This was despite the fact that she had all the right qualifications and had secured the job in a highly competitive process.

At the Trust, we’re aware of some of the reasons that can cause care experienced young people to struggle with confidence. I’ve been lucky enough to have supportive, caring adults in my life who have encouraged me. Care experienced young people often don’t have access to those kind of relationships.

Another challenge is that care experienced young people as a group don’t get the same opportunities as their peers to take part in activities like sport, art, drama and music. These informal activities are important in helping us to build social skills. They also provide safe spaces for us to make mistakes and to learn from them.

We want to do what we can to address some of these issues, and our current Empowerment Grants funding opportunity is one approach to supporting care experienced young people to develop their confidence and skills.

Empowerment Grants offer groups and organisations the opportunity to apply for up to £10,000. With this funding, we’re particularly looking to reach care experienced young people who may face barriers due to protected characteristics (e.g. disability; sexual orientation; race; religion and belief; sex), as well as young people who have experience of youth justice or are looked after at home.

Empowerment Grants can support activities for mixed groups which include young people who are not care experienced. We’re asking youth organisations, sports groups and community organisations to think about how they can include care experienced young people in their activities.

By including young people in this way, organisations can help young people to increase their social networks and develop positive relationships with adults which can be so vital to improving their confidence.

My hospital stay was an important experience – a reminder of how easy it is for hard-won confidence to slip away, and an insight into the impact of losing control (albeit temporarily). Care experienced young people tell us repeatedly that they feel important decisions about their lives are made without them, and they can struggle with inconsistent relationships with adults who are not always free to show them they care.

Empowerment Grants offer one route to supporting care experienced young people to grow their confidence, speak up and increase their connections to the wider community. Please take the opportunity to think about what you can do to get involved.  Read more about Empowerment Grants on our website






Carole Patrick, Programme Manager, Care Experienced Young People Programme


Aim high, dream big!


Aspirational Awards

We’re getting very close to a pretty exciting date for us at the Trust. On the 1st of November we’re launching our new ‘Aspirational Awards’ funding initiative, and I wanted to talk a bit about the development journey we’ve been on over the last six months to get to this exciting stage.

I should probably say with a bit of context first of all that, at the Trust, each of our funding initiatives are underpinned by what we call ‘theories of change’. In basic terms, this means that there is an idea which we believe when supported and acted on correctly, will support transformational change for the people we support: care experienced young people and people affected by dementia.

One of our theories of change is that when people are given genuine space, time and opportunity to shape and influence the issues that affect them, then something really special happens. This isn’t a revolutionary idea by any means, but it’s often only given lip-service by those in power, and less often seen in practice. And that’s something which clashes with a personal view of mine which is, if you believe in something then there’s no point in doing it half-heartedly – you might as well go for it.

It was with this in mind that we started to develop an approach for Aspirational Awards led by young people themselves.


Aspirational Awards are about providing care experienced young people with the opportunity to think big about their future and apply for grant funding from the Trust to support their ambitions in life. Again, a fairly simple theory of change here is that, when empowered to decide what they want to achieve and then provided with some financial support to help them along the way, care experienced young people can achieve anything they want to in life.

As this initiative is based on care experienced young people applying to us directly for funding, it felt essential that it be care experienced young people who would ultimately make the decisions on these applications. Not only that, we felt that young people should lead the design of the funding initiative from beginning to end; ranging from what should be the overarching aims and objectives of the initiative, right through to the nuts and bolts of designing an evaluation process and being there to support applicants when funding opens.

With this commitment in mind, we recruited a group of 12-15 young people from a range of care experiences and backgrounds who would become volunteer advisors to the Trust to work specifically on this initiative. We held our first ‘big’ meeting in April this year in the Prince’s Trust Wolfson Centre, and since then we’ve met over 20 times to develop something which I think has the potential to really transform the lives of care experienced young people.

Not only that, but those young people who have been part of the group have themselves really developed at the same time. I’ve seen first-hand a noticeable development in their public speaking, leadership skills and ability to resolve conflict. And that’s only in the first six months; this is a three year project, where some of them will go on to be trained as paid grant assessors as well as gain skills in areas such as evaluation, budgeting and application writing.

Since that first big meeting, the group have come on leaps and bounds and the workshops almost run themselves. That’s in part because we’ve developed strong relationships – another cornerstone of the work we do at the Trust – but really more of a testament to the sense of responsibility, maturity and pride that each young person has brought to the group.

One of my initial concerns was that it might take a while to get a productive discussion going around subjects that could be seen as dry (due diligence process anyone?) or abstract.  More fool me! It will come to no surprise to anyone who has worked with young people that, when given a platform to speak about something that’s important to them, they generally tend to take it. They’re also a huge amount of fun!

It has by no means been a completely seamless process, nor will it be, and we’ve had a few challenges along the way, but as we (rather frantically) prepare for the launch of Aspirational Awards, I feel a huge degree of trust that the group have developed something spectacular for young people. That’s not trust in them simply as ‘young people’ or ‘care experienced’, but rather, trust in them as competent, conscientious individuals who have been able to bring a level of insight and experience which I simply could not have.

It’s inexcusable thlisten-understand-actyat services for care experienced young people have followed a top-down approach for so long. However, I see a lot of hope that this tide seems to be turning and we’re beginning to see young people being empowered in many aspects of their lives – not least through the excellent efforts of some of the organisations we work with such as Who Cares? Scotland, our peer mentoring programmes, and, of course, our Champions Boards.

As a funder, it’s important that we set an example in this respect – by having the voice of young people at the centre of what we actually fund.  It’s being in the mind-set of ‘let’s ask young people about that’ and not assuming that the path we’re currently following is the right one.

This can be challenging, as it’s certainly not about shying away from the hard questions; but it means we are really asking young people, and taking the time to listen to and understand what they have to say.

This has co-production at its core. In developing our Aspirational Awards in this way, we have a stronger project because of it and I’m thankful for the commitment of each of the young people who have been on that journey with me over the last six months.

I started this blog to highlight the benefits of empowering young people to take responsibility and trusting in them to thrive in that environment, but have ended up with a tribute to the individuals who have actually embodied it – that feels very fitting somehow.






Paul Sullivan, Funding Manager


Love is a doing word

Nicola Sturgeon announces root and branch review of the care system, driven by those with experience of  care.


Since the First Minister’s announcement on Saturday of a full scale independent review of the care system, we’ve been on a bit of a roller coaster ride here at the Trust.

The announcement of the review in itself is obviously massively important, but it’s the language used by the First Minister to set the context for the review that has really struck a chord. She promised that the review will be driven by those with experience of care – young people themselves. Crucially, the First Minister was also unequivocal about love – to be truly engaged in a review of the care system, we have to acknowledge that every child, regardless of circumstances, deserves to be loved.

Here at the Trust, it’s difficult to find the words to capture the range of emotions we’ve been feeling – excitement, elation, expectation, pride – but regardless of the words, we have the sense that this is a seminal moment. Care experienced young people, and those who support them, have a once in a lifetime opportunity to re-imagine care based on this all important premise.

We’re inspired because from the earliest days of our Programme, we have believed that if young people are offered a safe place and are surrounded by people who are not afraid to show them love, they will find their voice and use it to transform not only their own lives but the lives of care experienced young people across the country. This belief has been at the root of all of our efforts to effect transformational change.

We saw this in action during the passage of the Children and Young People Act. Buoyed up by the success they had in influencing this legislation, care experienced young people dared to think big. They decided to go beyond campaigning for incremental changes to the care system. In the ‘Who Cares’ documentary aired by STV in September, five care experienced people showed enormous courage in openly and honestly addressing the challenges they faced growing up in care, and highlighted the importance of loving relationships in giving them hope for a different future. They took this message of love and hope directly to the First Minister and she clearly heard it.


Love isn’t a word that crops up often in political debate. In Scotland, we’re not always particularly comfortable talking about it in relation to the care system either. Every day, foster carers, residential workers, advocates, teachers, coaches and so many others show their love for young people in the care system in a thousand different ways. They wipe tears, make meals, listen, hug, encourage, motivate and do all those everyday things that can make such a big difference.

But very few of them will talk about love; in fact, going the extra mile for a child or young person is often something which happens under the radar, because professional boundaries can discourage a human response. In other words, sometimes the system forbids love.

We know some of the reasons behind this, but the key message is that life without love is damaging for children and young people. In the fast moving context of 21st century life, where individuals can increasingly feel the troubling weight of global events, love is something we all have the power to call on.

Loving others helps us to love ourselves, and engage with the world on our own terms. Let’s get behind care experienced young people and support their efforts to bring love and hope into the open, and join with them to re-imagine the kind of care that will consistently celebrate, sustain and nourish them wherever they live at whatever stage they’re at in their lives.

 A very happy CEYP programme team

 Carole 2015Catrionapaul


Meet MCR Pathway’s Young Glasgow Talent young heroes!

This blog is courtesy of MCR Pathways who run the pioneering programme ‘Young Glasgow Talent’.


Young Glasgow Talent – What is it?

Young Glasgow Talent by MCR Pathways is a schools based mentoring and talent development programme. They match top quality mentors with care experienced young people. MCR Pathways vision is simple; they want care experienced and disadvantaged young people to have the same educational outcomes, career opportunities and life chances as any other young person.

Recently, they have been celebrating some of their ‘Weegie Heroes’….. read on!

Weegie Heroes by David Sherlock

“Weegie Heroes has been an inspiring YGT experience. Throughout our celebration, we’ve heard incredible stories from every kind of person and organisation involved in our programme. They have all been fantastic, and show the fantastic work Glaswegians from all over the city are putting into helping the young people who live here. Some of the most moving stories have come from our young people. This one is no exception!

“Here we share an amazing story of commitment, motivation and resilience. This story was written by our Pathways Coordinator, Danielle. Based in every YGT school, each of our PCs support our mentors who are guiding and helping our young people. The young person in this PC’s school has just finished her exams and achieved some truly fantastic results. It’s a testament to the true power of mentoring. Here’s their story.”

“It is with great delight that I am writing about one of my very hardworking and inspirational young people, Chloe*. Chloe has recently shown astounding motivation, commitment and resilience when she performed exceptionally well in her recent exams, despite enormous pressure.  My young person is a carer for her mother.  Chloe also suffers from health issues herself, which cause her a lot of pain when she takes on too much at once.

Chloe was referred to me by her Pastoral Care Teacher as she felt that Chloe could really benefit from the support of a mentor. When I first met her, she was very down at the time and seemed like she had the weight of the world on her shoulders. To begin with, she was quite dubious about mentoring but with a little coaxing, she decided to give it a try. Shortly after that, she was matched with her mentor Jacqui, who Chloe feels has helped her massively. Being able to talk to Jacqui about her family and her school work has really helped Chloe to cope and to remain focussed on achieving her potential.  Jacqui helped Chloe with exam preparation and also helped her to look at courses which she hopes to apply to this academic year.

Being a young carer can be an extremely tough challenge at times, however Chloe balanced her responsibilities whilst undertaking four Highers and a NAT 5 last year.  Chloe also took part in a course at the University of Strathclyde called the Access to a Career in Teaching Programme which is a course that she commits herself to every week as she has her sights set firmly on a career as a Teacher when she finishes S6 in June 2017 (either Primary School or an English Teacher).  Therefore it is truly amazing that in the face of all of this adversity and enormous pressure that Chloe achieved a tremendous 3A’s and 2B’s for her Highers and NAT 5 for her 2016 exams… what an achievement!

Chatting to Chloe now, I see a huge difference from the girl who I first met. She has grown so much in confidence and she finally believes that she is capable of doing whatever she sets her mind to. This time last year, she predicted that she would perhaps manage to get C’s in her exams so she is so proud that she managed to do so well.  It is lovely to see her smiling and she has really come out of her shell and I really believe that Jacqui has had a lot do with that. I can’t thank Jacqui enough for the support she has given Chloe so far, and I can’t wait to see what they will achieve together this term.

I am so proud of Chloe and what she has achieved this year.  She persisted where many people would have given up and her triumph is a reflection of the inspirational young lady that she is growing up to be.  She has made so much progress since she joined the YGT mentoring programme and she continues to set herself more challenges. This year she has her sights set on achieving 4 more Highers within school and even Advanced Higher English at night classes at college.  Chloe is the epitome of Young Glasgow Talent and she personally demonstrates just how far you can go in life if you have motivation, commitment and resilience… you go girl!”

*Child’s name has been changed to protect their identity.

We have many more young people signing up for Young Glasgow Talent’s help. They need mentors to make a huge difference to their confidence, educational outcomes and future life chances. Can you help them? You’ll guide disadvantaged, but utterly deserving and ambitious, young people through their education. Find out more about Becoming A Mentor.

We’re always looking for new mentors to reach all the new young people who are coming on board with the programme. Help us spread the word by letting your friends and family know how worthwhile mentoring can be using the ‘share’ buttons below!

Can your organisation help? To become involved in our Talent Taster programme, alongside our partners such as Glasgow Life and The Herald, simply GET INVOLVED! We can’t wait to work with you to offer our city’s most needy a gateway to an expanding menu of opportunities and tasters of university, college and employment.


MCR Pathways and Young Glasgow Talent

This blog is courtesy of Donna Cunningham, Project Director at MCR Pathways.  Here she talks about their pioneering programme ‘Young Glasgow Talent’.

Young Glasgow Talent – What is it?

Young Glasgow Talent by MCR Pathways is a schools based mentoring and talent development programme. We match top quality mentors with care experienced young people. MCR Pathways vision is simple; we want care experienced and disadvantaged young people to have the same educational outcomes, career opportunities and life chances as any other young person.

To achieve this, mentors guide their young person through their education so that they get the very best out of it. To be there, listen to and support them. To help them find, grow and use their talents. This enables our young people to discover, and proceed confidently, along their chosen pathway. To employment, further education or higher education.

Young Glasgow Talent also provides Talent Tasters. These provide a taste of jobs, careers and all that Glasgow has to offer in arts, culture and sport. Job Tasters are a radical new take on work experience in a way that works for our young people. Sports, Arts and Cultural experiences are a key part of our support to enrich and ensure our young people have every opportunity to experience, participate, learn new skills and perhaps even go on to a successful career in the field. The Taster feedback from our young people has been excellent, reflecting the invaluable opportunities these experiences guarantee. They return to school with fresh inspiration and aspirations!


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What’s it like to work for MCR Pathways?

I am so proud to hold the position of Project Director for the MCR Pathways Young Glasgow Talent Programme in Glasgow.  Working with young people has always been the most rewarding part of my 32 years in education.   So when we discussed me moving to MCR from St Andrew’s Secondary School, (after 12 years!) I was apprehensive. Not of the new job, but of not working directly with the young people. However, 3 years on, being part of something transformational that is supporting ALL of our city’s most disadvantaged has more than compensated! I’m glad to say I still see and communicate with many of the young people I supported. It’s an honour to be a part of their lives and stories. I blag invites to other events that our youngsters are involved in just to see them!

Our Young Glasgow Talent mentoring programme was trialled at St Andrew’s Secondary School. It was a great success! It was all due to the fantastic staff, families, young people and many quality partners we worked with. We quickly found that what made the biggest impact on our young people was the introduction of one to one mentoring.  We knew we had something special from early on in the programme and it was just about nurturing and developing this with every other ‘additionality’ we could secure from partners. For four years we worked directly with youngsters and built the foundations of the programme.  The programme has gone from strength to strength since, as we’ve brought on an additional 9 schools and 250 mentors. We don’t for a moment think we are anywhere near where we will finally take this programme as we scale it over the next 3 years….it’s so motivating!  Everyone has something to bring and our diversity of mentors is even more significant than our diversity of each of our individual young people….all of them are amazing!

I am humbled and inspired on a daily basis. Especially listening to our Pathways Coordinators talking about the challenges our mentors are supporting our young people through and the fantastic outcomes they are subsequently achieving.  Nicole, one of our Ambassadors quoted “A mentor 100% changed my life, 100%!”  I absolutely believe that and have felt and witnessed it many times over.

At this stage of the academic year, approximately 61 of our mentored young people will be leaving our 10 schools. Of those almost 50% are leaving from S6 which means they’ll have much more confidence and the solid foundations to start their adult life.  This is testament to our schools and our mentors who have supported and encouraged them to return to school for a fifth and sixth year.  Lot’s of great stories are emerging regarding employment, college and university and we are really excited to be introducing our YGT Next Steps programme that will support our leavers in their transition and beyond.  This has been designed by our young people for our young people and mentors and will launch in June 2016.

I would urge anyone who even just ‘thinks’ they may be able to commit to our programme to come along to an Info Session and get on board. It’s such a rewarding experience!

You Can Get Involved & Make the Difference!


Can you help a young person realise their full potential and be defined by their talent not their circumstances?

One hour a week and a willingness to put a young person first are all you need.

You’ll make and experience a life-changing difference in helping a young person to find, grow and use their talents.

MCR Pathways will provide all the training and support you need.

For more information or to register, please go to http://www.youngglasgowtalent.org, email info@mcrpathways.org or call us on 0141 221 6642. We can’t wait to hear from you.

MCR Pathways is a pioneering partnership of the MCR Foundation and Glasgow City Council and actively supported by an increasing number of Glasgow’s leading organisations including Wheatley Group, Glasgow Life, University of Strathclyde, Santander, The Herald, Glasgow Kelvin College, SECC and Glasgow Chamber of Commerce.  MCR is also supported with funding from the Life Changes Trust.



Peer support and care experienced young people

Circle lying down medium

Earlier this year, we held the first gathering of our six Trust funded Peer Mentoring projects for care experienced young people.

At the Trust we believe that positive relationships are vital for all of us, supporting our emotional and mental well-being. They are also key to developing our own identity and self-worth.

The power of human connection is often underestimated and I think if we are all honest, at some point in our lives we have been guilty of taking our relationships for granted, whether that be with our friends, colleagues, or family members. I have been fortunate that, throughout my life, I have had support, unconditional love, advice, and encouragement at my fingertips. Since being with the Trust I have become more and more aware of how this has shaped my life. I have always known that it helped me but I don’t think I ever appreciated to what extent. Now, I cannot begin to imagine where I would be without it.

The Trust’s investment in mentoring is recognition that not everyone has had access to consistent, supportive and positive relationships throughout their lives. We’re supporting peer mentoring as one means of increasing the opportunities for care experienced young people to have positive relationships, because young people tell us this is a big gap area.

We think that if young people can widen their social connections, this could open the door to lots of other opportunities.  shutterstock_121861366

It is centred upon providing opportunities for stable and supportive relationships for care experienced young people to help them build loving, healthy, interdependent relationships in the future.

Peer mentoring is aimed at providing one-to-one support in a relationship which is entirely voluntary on both sides, as with mentoring more generally. However, the added element is that both the mentor and the mentee will share one or more characteristic.

The gathering of the Peer Mentoring projects at the end of March provided the opportunity for representatives from each of the projects to come together to share their progress, what they have learned and the challenges they have faced during the first six months of their projects. There was also space to share ideas around other topics including the secrets to successful mentoring matches, training and development for mentors and the support available for both mentors and mentees.

While the projects are all at different stages, and they have varied experience of mentoring, they have each made good progress in the first six months, including recruiting staff, developing training materials and the recruitment of mentors and mentees.

Some organisations are new to focusing specifically on care experienced young people, which brings new opportunities to raise awareness and build understanding of care experienced young people at community level.

There have been some challenges in reaching prospective mentors with care experience who are ready to take on a mentoring role, which has sometimes meant projects adapting their recruitment methods and criteria. Feedback from the day highlighted that the space to discuss some of these challenges was particularly useful for the projects, and the Trust hopes to continue these gatherings in the future.

For me personally, it was fantastic to see the passion that all of the people working on these projects have for peer mentoring and our shared belief that it will make a profound difference to the lives of care experienced young people. Their willingness to share their learning with each other and the Trust, as well as be open to learning and trying new things, was particularly exciting and we look forward to hosting the next gathering in October.


Catriona Kelly, Programme Officer, Care Experienced Young People Programme

* Our six funded peer mentoring projects are being delivered by Barnardo’s, Move On, The Rock Trust, Up-2-Us, Ypeople and Y Sort It.

Champions Boards: Giving young people a voice


Last week I was lucky enough to be part of a special day in Edinburgh, marking the journey so far of eight different Champions Boards from different parts of Scotland.

Care experienced young people, and staff who are passionate about giving these young people a platform, got together to celebrate the award of funding from the Life Changes Trust. The young people led the day, sharing their experiences of Champions Boards so far and their ideas for the future. The energy, drive and determination in the room was palpable. So was the air of competition, as various folk took part in our giant jenga challenges……


…and vied with each other over the most outrageous get-up for the photo booth! 

Dress Up Matt plu 1

So what’s all the fuss about? Why do Champions Boards matter so much? On the face of it, Champions Boards themselves might not seem like an especially radical idea. They bring together senior representatives of services and agencies in local areas who have responsibilities for young people who are in care and care leavers, and get them round the table with care experienced young people. The aim is to improve services and supports on the ground, so they have a much better opportunity to achieve their potential. So far, so what?

The thing is, we know that when people who make decisions about budgets and services hear directly from the people on the receiving end of those decisions, magic tends to happen. Issues that might seem abstract suddenly become very real and powerful, when a young person explains the debilitating impact of twenty placement moves or the horror of being separated from a much-loved brother or sister. The sense of apathy and/or fatalism which can pervade the discussion falls away and is replaced with a desire to act.

The stark reality is that young people growing up in care are still very much caught in a system, and systems are not famous for their ability to listen and respond to the needs of individuals. That’s why at the Life Changes Trust we’re excited about the possibilities presented by Champions Boards. We think that done well, they can create a much-needed space for care experienced young people to have a voice, and, just as important, to be properly heard by the people who are responsible for their care and well-being.

Please note the phrase “properly heard”. Listening is a fine art, and we’ve all experienced people in positions of power who haven’t listened to us. The GP who does not take our health concerns seriously; the head teacher who will not agree to a few small adjustments to the school day for a child who is struggling; the boss who moves us to an evening shift even although there’s no transport available in our town to get us to work at that time.

Listening to people, acknowledging their concerns and creating the space for them to be involved in developing a solution takes time and effort. It also takes a particular value system – you have to believe in people.

Anyone who took part in the event last week, and watched the young people doing their thing, could be in no doubt about the potential of Scotland’s care experienced population. However, those who run services and make decisions about budgets are often under huge pressure – they’re supposed to have all of the answers, and to act quickly. We should not underestimate the challenge of changing this culture – working collaboratively, taking the time to genuinely get to know young people and to create opportunities for them to lead is a radically different approach.

group discussion

By investing in Champions Boards, we are recognising that not only do care experienced young people need to have many more opportunities to develop their confidence and speak out about issues that matter to them, people in decision-making positions also need to sharpen up their listening skills and remember their accountability to the young people sitting in front of them.

It’s no longer good enough to say that the problem of challenging poor outcomes is too great. There is a huge wealth of talent, experience and passion for change amongst care experienced young people in Scotland. There are also so many people involved in running and delivering services who want things to change. Champions Boards are spaces to harness the collective abilities of young people, staff and senior decision-makers. They have grown out of the belief that things can and must improve, and care experienced young people must be at the heart of creating a new reality.

Carole 2015

Carole Patrick, Programme Manager, Care Experienced Young People Programme

Is love enough?


At Scottish Throughcare and Aftercare’s recent Practitioner’s Forum event, Kate Skinner asked delegates a deceptively simple question – is love enough to improve the lives of care experienced young people?

Kate’s speech, which focussed on social pedagogy as one approach to relationship-based practice, really got me thinking. I was prompted to go back to a book I haven’t looked at for a while – Adam Kahane’s Power and Love. The title of the book is inspired by a Martin Luther King quote:

“Power without love is reckless and abusive; and love without power is sentimental and anaemic”

In the book, Kahane explores the importance of combining power and love when working for social change.

His concept of power is based on the need we all have as humans to strive for purpose and growth. Love refers to our need to connect with others, to unify rather than separate. Kahane argues that when we want to tackle complex social problems, it doesn’t work to choose only the power route – attempting to push changes on others (leading to conflict and division) – or the love route – refusing to push at all (which maintains the status quo). Instead, we’re encouraged to understand both impulses, recognise that we all have them, and work creatively to reconcile their differences.

So what’s the connection to care experienced young people, relationship-based practice and social pedagogy?

Anyone who is working around this field will know that relationships are having a bit of a moment. People who directly support young people have always understood the importance of creating a meaningful connection – taking the time to get to know someone on an individual basis. But the systems and procedures that have developed around the care system over time have made a relationship-based approach pretty difficult. The culture around care is tangled up in issues of risk management, boundaries and professionalism. There’s a sense that the tide is turning though, and that culture is being challenged at all levels.

The rise of social pedagogy is one example of that challenge playing out. It’s a horrible term, as Kate acknowledged in her speech, but once you start to unpick it, it starts to sounds very intuitive.

It’s an approach which focuses on how people work rather than a practical checklist of things to do and things to avoid. For me, and I’m only at the beginning of developing an understanding of this, the first step really seems to be recognising the power dynamic in all relationships. Workers or carers or whoever has the opportunity to build a relationship with a young person need to acknowledge their relative power and be prepared to let some of that go.

As human beings, we all have a need to learn and grow throughout our lives, and social pedagogy encourages learning and growth alongside the young person. This calls for openness, not just through sharing something of yourself but also rolling up your sleeves and taking part in creative activities or shared tasks. This could take you out of your comfort zone!

It’s also an approach which is mindful of the little things, and prioritises authentic interaction. The text on the day of an exam; the flowers on the dining room table in the residential home; giving a distressed teenager a  bar of chocolate even when you know they’ve broken all the rules.

Kate questioned if love in itself is enough to change the lives of care experienced young people, recognising that love can be a fluid and changeable concept. Social pedagogy aims to create the conditions where people can be more honest with each other and recognise that love and caring in themselves won’t be enough to create the conditions for young people and the adults around them to be able to genuinely face challenges as equals. We also need to recognise the power dynamic, and be a bit braver in allowing young people to exert themselves, as well as being more open to experiences which put us on an equal footing.

For many of us, this is the true meaning of love, and we recognise that it is hard work. I would say it’s also the most important work we can do.

Carole 2015

Carole Patrick, Programme Manager, Care Experienced Young People Programme