Anna Fowlie

26th January 2007 at 00:00
Anna Fowlie

Age 42

Family Two children, aged seven and 12

Education Inverness High School

University Edinburgh, degree in history of art

Previous employment Lothian Regional Council, personnel department; Midlothian Council, employee relations; Cosla, team leader for children and young people for past four-and-a-half years.

With her spiky hair and bright "lippy", Anna Fowlie looks more like an art gallery collector than the stereo-typically grey local government official.

But despite a background in history of art, her career has been rooted in personnel work. At Midlothian Council, her remit included working with staff at children's homes that were being shut to make way for smaller support units. At Cosla, she has served on the employers' side implementing the teachers' agreement.

All this experience has provided good training for her new post - a year-long secondment to the Scottish Executive as "national champion" for looked-after children. Her job will be to knock together the heads of council chief executives to make them more aware of their responsibilities as "corporate parents" of the 13,000 children in Scotland who are in care.

A ministerial working group, of which Ms Fowlie was a member, published a report, Looked After Children and Young People: We Can and Must Do Better.

It recommended the creation of a national champion for this group. Ms Fowlie sees her job as making senior council officials think of looked-after children as "theirs".

Her task will not be made easier by the shake-up in elected councillors in May's local elections. As part of the new members' induction, Ms Fowlie wants to include training in their responsibilities to and for looked-after children. She would also like to see more teacher education institutions following the example of Aberdeen and Dundee universities, where student teachers and social workers share some of their training.

Teachers, she says, need to appreciate that excluding a looked-after child can exacerbate his or her situation by placing greater strain on carers, potentially leading to another placement in what can quickly become a downward spiral.

She fumes quietly about one newspaper story which, following a Freedom of Information enquiry, castigated councils for spending thousands of pounds on taxis to take children in care to schools outwith their catchment area.

"In the next breath, they (the media) would pillory us for moving the kids around too much," she says.

She pays tribute to Damion Hartley, whose contribution to the working group came from his perspective of coming through the care system. "He told us how he had been living in a bedsit after he left care and became homeless.

Whereas his friends would just have gone back to their mum, he had no one to go back to."

That links up with another anomaly in the system - where a young person over the age of 18 cannot go back and stay in the house of his or her former foster carers if they are still fostering other children because, under the law, they are deemed an "unrelated adult". It is a problem being tackled by legislation, she says, but it highlights the isolation that many of this group can face.

"If they go to university, they can't take their washing home. They can't do basic stuff, like organising a work experience placement in their dad's office."

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