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More than 170 employees from across the Council’s Children & Families Social Work Service came together on March 19th to shine a light on the importance of building strong relationships when engaging with children, young people and their families.

Opening the Service’s annual conference, held in Grangemouth Town Hall, Sara Lacey, Head of Social Work, Children’s Services, highlighted how the ‘Closer to Home’ strategy embraced World Social Work Day's theme of 'Promoting the Importance of Human Relationships’.

Launched 18 months ago, the strategy aims to secure better outcomes for children and young people through increased collaborative and innovative practice and by working in partnership with families to design and deliver services they actually want and need.

She said: “Today is about recognising what we have achieved and what we need to do to take the next giant step forward. The theme of the day is critical, as relationship-based practice is key to the success of ‘Closer to Home’, which will help us transform our Service. It provides the framework to create opportunities and put in place the resources needed to ensure more children and young people can stay at home with their families, if it is safe to do so, and ultimately reduce the number of children in care.”

Throughout the day attendees took part in workshops, listened to a Q&A session led by care leavers, and heard the care journeys of a number of young people. Keynote speaker, renowned poet and playwright, Louise Wallwein, recounted her experience of growing up in 13 different care homes after being given up for adoption at birth in 1969.

She said: “Every single one of you is a lighthouse in a sea of chaos. You should feel really proud that you are here today because you really care. I urge you to keep innovating and continue to be a beacon of hope to the people you work with.”

Members of the Champion’s Board also performed a song reflecting their care experiences. Set up in 2017, the Board provides a way for looked after children and young people to have a voice in how they are cared for and enables them to influence policy and practice.

In his address to conference, Kenneth Lawrie, Chief Executive, Falkirk Council, highlighted the importance of the Champion’s Board.

He said: “Each time the board meets we hear a young person's care story that is powerful, emotional and important. These stories remind us why we do the jobs we do and why we need to constantly strive to do better so we can improve the outcomes for our young people.”

Mr Lawrie also stressed ‘Closer to Home’ was as a flagship project for the Council, one that was leading the way in Scotland.

He said: “Improving the outcomes for our most vulnerable is a measure of our success. Through ‘Closer to Home’ you are doing what is necessary to transform your Service and ensure we are doing our very best for children and their families. Thank you for your work. It is life enhancing.  It creates relationships, hopes, opportunities and possibilities that otherwise would not exist.”