To mark #CareDay2022, our Lead Officer for the Promise Kari-Ann tells us about why including voice is so vital
Working with children and young people brings a richness and insight that is energising, fun and creative
Asked to describe her career to date, Kari-Ann Johnston believes that she has been “very lucky”. “I’ve worked alongside some amazing people, who have continually influenced my practice,” she says. She started off in the theatre and creative industries but was introduced to the concept of service co-design during her time as House Manager at Eden Court Theatre and Cinema in Inverness when she worked closely with the disabled community to improve and expand their services.
That experience – involving and working closely with communities to influence meaningful change – has driven Kari-Ann since in her subsequent studies and roles, and will be central to her new position as East Lothian’s Lead Officer for The Promise. It’s a new and unique remit which will look to ensure East Lothian Council implements the Promise plan priorities 2021-2024.
The Promise was the outcome of the Independent Care Review, centred around the voices of care experienced children, young people, families, and the workforce. After studying Community Education at University of Edinburgh, Kari-Ann was appointed 1000 Voices Engagement and Development officer working on the participation element of the Independent Care Review. Her role was to engage with children, young people and adults who had experience of the care system, using creative methods, in lots of different settings.
“The Promise is a vision of how children and young people should grow up. If Scotland can get it right for every child and their families, fewer children and young people will experience the care system (or, if they do, it will look different). The Promise is about giving us all permission to view ‘the system’ differently and confidence to reimagine a different way of working with children and young people,” Kari-Ann explains. Central to all of this is ‘Voice’ which the Independent Care Review describes as ensuring that: children must be listened to and meaningfully and appropriately involved in decision-making about their care, with all those involved properly listening and responding to what children want and need.
“Voice has been central to the work I have conducted over the past 12 years,” says Kari-Ann. “It’s clear by drawing on the power of voice and lived experience creates a blueprint for change but only if it is done in a meaningful way.” It was this commitment that brought her to East Lothian, first working alongside the Champions Board and now in her new role.
“Working with children and young people brings a richness and insight that is energising, fun and creative. The work becomes about relationships and activism, which is such a colourful combination,” she says. “Working together to find creative solutions with communities is never easy, often messy but it’s really powerful and goes beyond any hard outcomes. It’s what inspires me every day.”