Listening to the Voices of Scotland’s Babies – Starcatchers launches Reflective Guide and Resources

13 June 2024

Image credit: Ben Winger

The incorporation of United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) into domestic law is a landmark moment for Scotland’s babies, children and young people.  In the build up to the law coming in to force in July, Starcatchers is preparing to launch the findings and resources from our pioneering research into how we can use the arts to listen to the ‘voices’ of babies.

Together with partners, the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and Queen Margaret’s University, Starcatchers’ research explores an arts-based approach that could be used by those working with babies and young children to enable their views to be included in decision-making.  

With support from funders including Cattanach, the Charles Gordon Foundation, Creative Scotland and Interface, researchers, Dr Rachel Drury (Royal Conservatoire of Scotland), Dr Cara Blaisdell (Queen Margaret University), and assisted  supported by Claire Ruckert (Royal Conservatoire of Scotland), have undertaken the research over the last 2 years, alongside babies and young children, their parents, and carers, and Starcatchers Artists.  

The research has developed an understanding into how the arts and creative experiences can be the vehicle to elicit the views of our youngest children from birth to 3 years old. The resulting Reflective Guide is the practical application of a child’s-rights approach to ensure that pre- and non-verbal children are included in decision making around matters that affect them. 

On the 20 June, Starcatchers will host an event in their Wester Hailes Baby Studio, sharing their findings and learning with senior leaders and decision-makers across early years, health, arts, and voluntary sectors.Heather Armstrong, Starcatchers’ Head of Early Years Development, will offer a first look at a new tool for professionals to use in their work with babies and young children, including a suite of films and written resources that have been created to support the implementation of this work in practice. 

Starcatcher’s Chief Executive, Rhona Matheson says: 

Babies and young children are a group who find it hardest to access their rights – their lack of or limited verbal language is a key factor in this. However, everyone who has come in to contact with a baby will know that they use many different ways of communicating how they feel. The arts and creative experiences are a fantastic way to support self-expression and all adults have a role in supporting this most marginalised group to access the rights that they are entitled to. This event will share our work and findings which have been developed into a pioneering Reflective Guide. Here at Starcatchers we are proud to launch this research and share how it is impacting our work and decision making. Working together with the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and Queen Margaret’s University has enabled us to explore our work in new, and in-depth ways, to ensure we exchange our learning for a truly progressive stance on Babies’ Rights in Scotland. We are incredibly grateful to our funders for their support in making this research happen.

 Researchers Dr Rachel Drury and Dr Cara Blaisdell say: 

“It has been a privilege to learn from the babies, families, and artists during this project. The participation rights of babies and young children are not only of benefit to babies themselves, but also have the potential to develop and transform the societies in which they live. The collaborative work with Starcatchers illustrates the power of the creative arts to facilitate human rights (as well as being a right in itself) and we look forward to continuing this work, learning from best practice and evolving the reflective guide with a wide range of sectors.” 

Cattanach’s Chief Executive, Dr Sophie Flemig says: 

“For Cattanach, it is a key priority that all children have access their rights under the UNCRC. Yet, we continuously experience that pre- and non-verbal children are either entirely forgotten or are a mere afterthought. This is why we are so delighted to support Starcatchers for this Reflective Guide that shines a light on what a rights-based approach with babies looks like in practice.  We thank the Starcatchers team, the artists, and, of course, the Royal Conservatoire and QMU for their fantastic work, and look forward to seeing the Reflective Guide rolled out across Scotland and beyond.”