Meet Dionne: Edinburgh’s GIRFEC ambassador!
Seventeen year old Dionne McFarlane is a leading light in the Scottish Government’s GIRFEC initiative. The local girl is in her final year at St Augustine’s High School but she’s also pretty busy delivering presentations and facilitating workshops around children and young people’s issues. Dionne’s been called Edinburgh’s GIRFEC ambassador. What’s GIRFEC? Read on …
GIRFEC (Getting It Right For Every Child) is a consistent way for people to work with all children and young people. It’s the bedrock for all children’s services and can also be used by practitioners in adult services who work with parents or carers.
The approach helps practitioners focus on what makes a positive difference for children and young people – and how they can act to deliver these improvements. Getting it right for every child is being threaded through all existing policy, practice, strategy and legislation affecting children, young people and their families.
For children and their families GIRFEC means:
- They understand what is happening and why
- They have been listened to carefully and their wishes have been heard and understood
- They will feel confident about the help they are getting
- They are appropriately involved in discussions and decisions that affect them
- They can rely on appropriate help being available as soon as possible
- They will have experienced a more streamlined and co-ordinated response from practitioners
For professionals working with children GIRFEC means:
Putting the child or young person at the centre and developing a shared understanding within and across agencies
Using common tools, language and processes, considering the child or young person as a whole, and promoting closer working where necessary with other practitioners
Providing leadership and strategic support to implement the changes in culture, systems and practice required within and across agencies to implement Getting it right for every child
Planning for the transition as staff in agencies move from the current working processes to the new child-centred processes
The GIRFEC approach is based on solid foundations: there are ten core components and a set of values and principles which bring meaning and relevance at a practice level to single-agency, multi-agency and inter-agency working across the whole of children’s services. They can be applied in any setting and circumstance where people are working with children and young people.
The core components are:
A focus on improving outcomes for children, young people and their families based on a shared understanding of wellbeing
A common approach to the proportionate sharing of information where appropriate
An integral role for children, young people and families in assessment, planning and intervention
A co-ordinated and unified approach to identifying concerns, assessing needs, and agreeing actions and outcomes, based on the wellbeing Indicators
Streamlined planning, assessment and decision-making processes that lead to the right help at the right time
Consistent high standards of co-operation, joint working and communication where more than one agency needs to be involved, locally and across Scotland
A Named Person for every child and young person, and a Lead Professional (where necessary) to co-ordinate and monitor multi-agency activity
Maximising the skilled workforce within universal services to address needs and risks as early as possible
A confident and competent workforce across all services for children, young people and their families
The capacity, proportionately and appropriately, to share demographic, assessment, and planning information within and across agency boundaries.
That all sounds pretty complicated – how did a 17 year old girl from Crewe get involved in delivering the GIRFEC message?
“It might sound complicated, but it’s not really”, Dionne said. “It’s really just about making sure the support for the child is always there. IS the child safe? Is the child healthy? It’s about the whole wellbeing of the child – this is about emotional, not educational, support”.
Dionne first got involved almost two years ago, when Minister for Children and Young People, Aileen Campbell, wanted to find out what wellbeing means to Scotland’s young people. Ms Campbell invited young people to send in either a written piece or a drawing about what wellbeing meant to them.
There were over 300 entries from young people aged between 11 and 15.
“I read up about it and thought that this was something I would be interested in. I entered – my choice of subject was ‘bereavement’ – and I thought that was that. I was busy with other things and had pretty much forgotten all about it when the Scottish Government got in touch to say I was one of twelve winners”.
You can find Dionne’s entry here
Dionne was the only young person from Edinburgh to be invited to Victoria Quay to participate in workshops with the Scottish Government to produce all the information on the www.wellbeingforyoungscots.org/ website. The idea is to tell other young people more about wellbeing and what the Scottish Government is doing to try and make Scotland the best place in the world for children and young people to grow up.
Since then, our Dionne’s been in constant demand – speaking at conferences, helping to formulate policy and delivering presentations all over the country. As a seventeen year old schoolgirl, isn’t it all too demanding? What about exams?
“I’m in sixth year and I have exams and I also have college interviews lined up but everything is okay; I’m able to manage fine. The school is very supportive and I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t enjoy it. I really do love it and it’s a fascinating subject – the work I’ve done with GIRFEC has made me think seriously about a career in social work”.
While spreading the GIRFEC message Dionne has met many high-profile public figures. Who has impressed her most?
“Aileen Campbell (above, with Dionne) was really nice. She is very enthusiastic about the work we are doing and she is also passionate about her brief. I think her attitude rubs off on other people too. She’s just had a second baby so she’s on maternity leave just now. If I had to choose just one person I would have to say Sue Bruce, who is the city council’s Chief Executive. She was really down to earth and showed genuine interest in the work I’ve been doing. She was very easy to talk to”.
And a final message to young people?
“If I could only get out one message, it would be to reassure young people that you don’t have to go through difficult things on your own – whatever problems you are facing there are people to help you. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness – that’s the most important message I would like to get out”.
Preparing and delivering presentations, speech-writing, participating in workshops, then there’s the school studies and college interviews … it’s a schedule that might floor some people, but not Dionne – Edinburgh’s very own GIRFEC ambassador!
For more information on GIRFEC go to: