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Forces Children Scotland CEO to move on from role this summer.

Gary Seath 2 weeks ago

Media

Having led the charity for the past three and half years, Laura Falconer announces that she will move on from the role later this summer.

Laura has guided the charity through significant transformational change to realise its vision of making Scotland a place for all children and young people from armed forces communities to realise their potential and thrive.

From rebranding and launching a new strategic direction to expanding our services delivered across Scotland, there are many highlights for Laura to reflect on whilst preparing to begin a new chapter of semi-retirement.

Laura continues:

“I joined at a time when we were known as The Royal Caledonian Education Trust (RCET) and it was clear the charity was ready for the transformational change.

I am honoured that the Trustees trusted me to lead the organisation through such significant change, which included our rebranding, new website, and strategic plan.

The pace of change was fast. Forces Children Scotland is now the sector-leading charity for children and young people from armed forces and veteran families in Scotland.

We have become a bolder voice in the sector, amplifying children and young people’s experiences to those making decisions impacting on policy and practice and I am very proud of all the work the team has undertaken to achieve this.

Our Influencing Strategy took this one step further and our upcoming report on Children’s Rights and how they are impacted by living in an armed forces family will put their voices even more on the radar, supported by UNCRC legislation.”

From the rebrand, new website, and strategic plan to launching projects, services, and campaigns, the lived experience of children and young people from armed forces communities has been at the heart of the transformational change.

Reflecting on the contribution children and young people have made to the transformational change achieved, Laura provides an important parting message for this community.

 

“My reflections are that children and young people from armed forces families can often be or feel a very silenced group.

They can feel they should be proud of their parent’s service and can feel disloyal speaking out about the impact their parent’s career choices are having on their lives.

I am so very proud of all the children and young people we work with who have bravely shared their experiences with us to allow things to improve for more children and young people.

My message to them is to please continue to hold our charity and staff, including the next CEO, to account in doing justice to your experiences and words. You are powerful and our role should always be to honour your stories.”

There have been many highlights, despite leading the charity through unprecedented challenging times for the sector regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, the cost of living crisis, and funding challenges.

“For me personally, the highlight has been being able to take all I have learned throughout my career.

Firstly as a speech and language therapist helping give voice to those that struggled to be heard, then within Barnardo’s, working with many groups of vulnerable children and young people and leading on national strategy around mental health and wellbeing, and to bring all that knowledge and experience together to make a difference for an amazing group of children and young people, whose needs have mostly been hidden.

To list specific highlights, I would say the rebranding of the charity to make it fit for purpose in 2024, setting a new direction within our Strategic Plan, introducing more partnership working, and earlier intervention.

Moreover, establishing co-production with children and young people as core to all the charity does, from developing our work to ensure we are a rights-based, trauma-informed organisation, to the publishing of our Influencing Strategy and our upcoming Rights Report.

The opportunity to showcase and discuss our work in parliament last year also led to a personal highlight, when one of the parents approached me after my speech and said it moved them to tears as never before had someone described their lives and experiences so accurately.

Since I am not from a serving family, I was humbled to hear we had obviously been listening well to the children and young people we work with and that I had represented their views accurately.”

All of this leads to the question of how far the charity has come regarding achieving its mission of making Scotland a place where all children from armed forces communities can overcome unique challenges to realise their potential and thrive.

“I think we have achieved a huge amount in terms of raising the profile of this group of children and young people and their unique life experiences and needs.

They are now on the radar, being recognised within the children’s sector as a group who need to be considered in policy and practice. There is still a significant way to go, however.

While we have so far raised the profile and brought their needs to the attention of those in positions of power, this now needs to translate into action, with both policy and practice consistently taking children and young people from armed forces families into consideration.

We have also established new models of support which have demonstrated both the need and the benefit.

For Scotland to become a place where children from armed forces families can achieve their potential and thrive, there needs to be long-term, core investment in the support required to overcome some of the barriers they experience to their development, their education, and their wellbeing.”

Having established Forces Children as a sector-leading charity, Laura reflects on the next steps her successor should consider in continuing to move forward to achieve the charity’s mission.

“For Forces Children Scotland as a charity, I would hope the next CEO will continue our focus on influencing change, articulated through our Influencing Strategy.

Co-produced together with young people, this tells us what they want to see change in five key areas – a strong evidence base, upholding children’s rights, positive mental health and wellbeing, a thriving education, and successful transitions to civilian life.

I believe the next steps in achieving our mission are to support the sector to ensure they are realising the rights of children and young people from armed forces and veteran families.

If we can do that, we should achieve the changes children and young people are calling for to help them thrive”.

 

As attention now turns to the recruitment of a successor and future plans for Forces Children Scotland, we ask what’s next for Laura Falconer.

“That’s a very good question. If you listen to my husband, it would appear I am going to be responsible for cutting the grass and doing all the gardening! However, I am looking forward to everything semi-retirement will provide so I may have other ideas.

I think it’s time to look after myself now. I am looking forward to a slightly slower pace of life, with more yoga, reading, and gardening and more motorhome trips to remote areas of Scotland.

But since I am not very good at sitting still, this will no doubt be alongside some exciting new projects.

I have spent a long time caring for others, whether that has been the staff teams I have managed since I was 24, my two children, and two sets of elderly parents.

I think I still have a lot to give in the fields of leadership, whole systems change and mental health and wellbeing, for instance, so look out for some consultancy work in the future from me, alongside the relaxation.”

 

Max Young, Co-Chair of Forces Children Scotland, said:

“On behalf of the Co-Chairs and Board of Trustees, I would like to express our thanks to Laura for the great work she has done at Forces Children Scotland over the last three years.

This work has made a real difference to many children and young people from Armed Forces families and has seen us significantly grow our influence and standing in this hugely important sector.

Whilst we are naturally very sorry that Laura is leaving us, she goes with our very best wishes, and we wish her all the best for the future.”

 

From all involved at Forces Children Scotland, we wish Laura the very best for the future.