The crux of The Promise is perfection. And why not?

Scotland prides herself on being a socially progressive and forward-thinking country, and there is nothing more progressive than making sure our Care Experienced young people have the same opportunities to thrive as any other young person.

It is now four years exactly since the publication of Fiona Duncan's Independent Care Review. It involved an unprecedented scope of experience and took three years to investigate and draft its final report, The Promise.

It came with pledges of specific action - the organisation The Promise Scotland was set up and tasked with implementing the recommendations of the report by 2030.

So where are we now? According to the advocacy charity Who Cares? Scotland, not far enough.

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Who Cares? Scotland submitted a sweeping range of freedom of information requests to local authorities and received back a mixed picture of how councils are faring in transforming services for Care Experienced communities.

One particularly startling data return was from a local authority where 83% of social workers had been off work due to sickness in 2023. That's 20 percentage points higher than two years previously.

We don't know which local authority this applies to as Who Cares? Scotland chose to anonymise its data; it wanted to be clear that the report into the progress of The Promise was not an exercise in blame but more of a report card looking at the situation broadly.

What this figure speaks to is the inherent difficulty in fulfilling some of the pledges of The Promise.

The care review - spearheaded by then-First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, who championed Care Experienced young people during her tenure - took significant guidance from people with lived experience.

"Lived experienced" has become one of these buzzwords that causes sighs from cynics but it's vital to understand how systems impact the people involved in those systems. Lived experience for a child in a children's hearing is going to differ vastly from my experience in a children's hearing as a panel member, for example.

When people with lived experience talk about how their experience might be improved, what they envisage is a perfect world. Reality and perfection butt against each other, however, and rarely intersect.

And so, one of the stated desires of those who fed into The Promise was consistency: consistency of care by social work and consistency of panel members at hearings.

It sounds sensible and straightforward. The Promise talks a lot about love - about weaving love and a feeling of being cherished into the care system.

How you persuade a professional to show love for the child or young person they work with is an entirely different matter, and one on which The Promise is silent.

Certainly consistency is a solid starting point for building meaningful relationships, whether that translates into love or not. Yet no employer can mandate for staff sickness or people leaving for new jobs or retiring or whatever else life throws up.

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Another pledge is that children's hearings take place at a time that suits the children and young people's schedule - that is, not during school hours. School hours are also office hours.

So you then have to find volunteers who can sit in the evenings, rather than the day time, which may suit for some people but be impossible for others. Or you professionalise the system and hire people who can work antisocial hours.

I've written about this before but I believe professionalising the children's hearings system would be a devastatingly retrograde step that would fundamentally undermine the ethos of the system.

For some looked after and accommodated children panel members are the only people in their lives who are not paid to be there.

Who Cares? Scotland's report raises further concerns about the use of restraint and the use of informal school exclusions. The concern is that the pledge to eradicate restraint has been watered down by the use of weasel words - "safe hold" rather than "restraint" and a shift in position from ceasing restraint entirely to only using it where necessary.

Informal school exclusions are where reduced timetables are used to support young people who can't cope with a full timetable. Schools say they assist in giving pupils at least some contact time with a view to building up to more time in school.

Opponents say they fail Care Experienced young people by unofficially excluding them from school life.

Having interviewed staff working in children's units, there seems to be no clear way to completely eradicate the use of restraint where young people's behaviour is a danger to themselves or others, particularly when weapons are involved.

There is sometimes very little that can be done when a teenager point blank refuses to attend school. Even an hour a week is better than nothing and isn't a sign teaching staff are trying to keep them out of school - it can be a sign that teaching staff are doing everything in their power to include them.

It's similar to calls to eradicate rough sleeping. It is a right and correct desire - but not everyone, for complex reasons, wants to come indoors.

In a perfect world all children would be in school full time and restraint would be unconscionable. We're not in a perfect world.

Teaching staff and social workers also have in common the fact that they can't solve everything alone, no matter how committed they are to The Promise.

There needs to also be significant investment in mental health services to cut waiting lists and ensure children and families have access to supports, particularly at crisis points.

Social security needs to be designed in such a way to support families, particularly when children are temporarily moved from parental care, so that poverty does not delay or prevent family reunification.

De-stigmatising social work involvement - don't we all need help sometimes? - and adequate resources for social work departments are also key.

The Promise is groundbreaking in that it dreams big. Not all dreams, however, can become reality.