23 September 2022

Children's Rights Officer recognised for work with looked after children and young people

An Aberdeenshire Council Children’s Rights Officer has been recognised for her exemplary work with looked-after children and young people.

Laura Stewart was presented with the Health Care Rights Award at the Children’s Health Scotland Conference earlier this month.

In accepting her award, Laura said she had the ‘best job in the world’, adding: “We are a small team who work alongside children and young people, ensuring they know about their rights and that adults uphold these rights.

“Care-experienced young people attend an awful lot of meetings where adults make decisions that have a huge impact on their lives, which can be full of change. Their rights are at the heart of how I provide support so that they have as much control as possible.”

On choosing their winner, the Children’s Health Scotland judges said: “We believe it is rare for a council to fund such a job position as a Children’s Rights Officer, so a big well done to Aberdeenshire Council.

“However, having the position is one thing, having the right person is something completely different. Laura seems to be exactly that. Her flexible style comes through as she adapts to reach every child, and we are hugely impressed with her work.”

As part of her role, Laura also helps facilitate the Young People’s Organising and Campaigning group (YPOC) which meets monthly and is run by and for care-experienced young people aged 12 and up.

Laura continued: “They want to use their own experience to make things better for others and seeing them grow in confidence is fantastic.

“The YPOC group has been hugely influential within the council and Scotland-wide. Its campaigns have reached the Scottish Parliament, universities and other councils. The influence the group has had is very wide-reaching and I am very proud to have played my part in this.”

Laura was nominated by Troup House School where she has been supporting the young people living there, including via video link when Covid-19 hit.

Manager at Troup House Jennifer McGregor said: “Laura goes above and beyond supporting the children at Troup House. She not only calls but visits to build stronger relationships with the children and has been amazing finding ways to communicate with some of our more complex children.

“She has a special way of individualising what she does to accommodate and support the needs of individual children and will fight on their behalf when needed. The children all spend time with Laura, even those who struggle to accept help, which is mainly due to her approachable personality and fun-loving nature.”

Aberdeenshire Council’s Education and Children’s Services Committee chair Cllr Gillian Owen added: “We are very proud of Laura for winning what is a very well-deserved award.

“She is hard-working and the child is at the centre of everything she does for us at Aberdeenshire Council.

“Our independent Children’s Rights Service is an integral part of our commitment to upholding children’s rights across Aberdeenshire with a particular focus on ensuring the voice of our care-experienced young people is listened to and acted upon.

“We are also delighted that the service is also piloting advocacy and support for children with experience of child protection processes. 

“The service is there to help children better understand their rights and responsibilities and Children’s Rights Officers represent their views at meetings, advocate on their behalf and, put forward their views on the services we provide, and ensure those caring for them listen to what they have to say.

“Laura has done a great deal to promote children’s rights and the child’s voice within Aberdeenshire and so a huge well done and congratulations, Laura.”