Minister “emotional” after hearing of experiences of children in care in Dundee

© DC Thomson
Mark McDonald said 14-year-old Kevin O'Neill's video was "emotional".

The Minister for Childcare and Early Years, Mark McDonald, said it was “emotional” hearing of the experiences of children growing up in care in Dundee.

The minister was attending Dundee Science Centre yesterday as part of a nationwide tour on National Care Day, aimed at celebrating looked after young people.

It kicks off the Scottish Government’s commitment to have a conversation with 1000 care experienced people during the next two years.

Those in attendance were shown Rollercoaster, a video made by 14-year-old Kevin O’Neill, who experienced care growing up.

After hearing of his ordeal, Mr McDonald said: “It was emotionally affecting watching the video. I will remember it for a very long time and I will probably talk about it often too.

“National Care Day is a fantastic opportunity to stop and celebrate our looked after children and young people. The theme for the day is “What are you proud of?” and I can’t think of anything more fitting.

“We can all be proud of what the young people who grow up in the care system already go on to achieve. The reality is that certain opportunities aren’t as easily available for those who have experienced the care system compared to their peers, but the young people I have met today definitely haven’t let this hold them back.

“The message I want to send all our care experienced young people today is simple. You are valued, you deserve to be loved and you make us extremely proud.

“Now it is time to make you proud of us by driving forward the change we all want to see within the care system to benefit generations to come.”

Statistics show that those with care experience are four times more likely to develop mental illness in later life compared to those who have not.

Duncan Dunlop, Chief Executive of Who Cares? Scotland, which provides independent advocacy for children and young people in care, believes there is “blunt discrimination” in society against them and that a change in attitudes is required.

He said: “I truly believe Scots will be embarrassed when they look back on how we treated those who have experienced care in childhood. We have never had the conversation about it.

“It really is blunt prejudicial discrimination which goes on. We like to think we are a socialist country but we should look at what is going on in our own backyard.

“Care Day is an opportunity to send a clear message to care experienced people that we will support and celebrate them. That’s why we’re thrilled that every level of the Scottish Government has got behind our call.”