A little about me, I grew up in the care system I probably spent a year to 18 months between the ages of one and five when I was in and out of care three times and then permanently in care from five to 18. I’ve also worked across a wide variety of organizations and sectors in my last job I produced one of the biggest health surveys of looked after children and care leavers about physical health and well-being, as well as commissioning toolkit.
I produced a resource called 45 care lever friendly ways and I produced one of the first-ever commissioning toolkits um for local authorities and for clinical commissioning groups to commission services for looked after children and care leavers. So it’s quite a lot of experience in regards to that and they also had heavy input into the report that happened at the end of a project and i have also spoken at the royal college of nurses around the health of looked after children i have also been involved in the citizen jury for the department of health um England NHS England and I was asked to talk at an event with three days notice because a person dropped out who nominated to NHS England that the health of looked after children as a priority for NHS England and it was selected to go through, got second highest votes and I spoke at the main event in the docklands and this was attended by various directors of NHS England so just a little bit of experience.
The care review as many of you know I grew up in the care system in the 1970s and 80s and it left me with a lot of trauma ironically I went into the care system to be in a safer place but it was a case of out of frying pan and into the fire. In terms of the abuse perpetrated on me by my mother was replaced by abuse perpetrated on me by the care system. so the care system is having another review
And as it stands at the moment the most important people look like they’re going to be left out of the review that is the people in the care system at the moment and the people who grew up in the care system like myself who I shall refer to as care experienced people and on Twitter it’s ~CEP okay so a majority of people in the care system are in the care system due to abuse and or neglect something like 80 to 85 percent of children entering the care system are as a result of that so it’s a huge amount and as you can imagine they carry a lot of trauma and pain from the abuse and neglect also in terms of statistics around outcomes for care leavers okay experienced people
We are seven times more likely than the rest of our population to die before the age of 25 we are forty times more likely to be in the criminal justice system around 30 times more likely to be homeless around 30 times more likely to be involved in selling sex and sex work now this isn’t because we are bad people this is because we are let down badly by the system in terms of so many of us falling through the gaps there is some positivity around six percent of us aged 18 – 25 go to university however this is much much much smaller than the amounts of people um who grew up in families going to university again it’s about the system, not the people okay so
I feel quite strongly about this I feel the whole
It needs to be torn down and rebuilt basically it is not fit for purpose, there are some bits of good practice and there are there is some good work happening, however, on the whole, it’s not a great experience for many of us kids today end up with something like at least two different social workers a year numerous placement changes or numerous um living in different foster carers and living in different children’s homes obviously this is not good for stability and positive outcomes and it adds more to the narrative that many of us have in our heads that we are bad people and somehow if we had been better then we wouldn’t have been abused and neglected by our parents, okay so I would start quite clearly with this
I would start with a question would we put our children the people around the tables who are having these discussions is would we put our children in the current care system as it stands now and if any of them said yes they would be lying they will say no and that tells us all we need to know if it’s not good enough for their children then it’s not good enough for us simple as that also in terms of the second question would be how can we promote and take care of these young people how can we provide the most loving compassionate, caring, understanding, empathetic, supporting and nurturing environment for these children to grow up and involve in because they have been let down very badly by their parents and initial caregivers and we need to do all that is humanly possible to provide them with a stable upbringing and childhood okay. A massive focus needs to be around healing the trauma etc. This underpins everything as the more resourceful they fel emotionally and mentally the more able they will be to “succeed”.
I would make a commitment to reduce these awful statistics and build this into any legislation that happens around the care review so it will be a commitment to review those awful statistics a commitment to increase the number of young people young cep people who go to university but not just university as well because at the moment the focus is purely on academic success rather than any other types of success are also would make a commitment to um increase general success and well-being in a holistic way so this is whether they want to be a car mechanic a hairdresser a fitness instructor you know whatever it is I would promote that and encourage that and put that into any legislation a movement away from a silo in young people to purely just go to university and make that the only positive outcome that is measured in some way
It would be to support healing and emotional physical mental and spiritual well-being it would be to support the healing of traumas and to make these the main focus of the work that is done it will be to support foster carers social workers and residential staff and anyone working with cep young people much better to help them achieve better outcomes for young people.
It would be to end jargon do away with the term corporate parent do away with the acronym lack as in looked after child lack anyone see a problem with that word lack to do away with terms such as placements when you’re saying placement it’s like you’re saying is an object, not a person these are people we are talking about these are young people who carry a lot of pain from their childhood experiences who need love and concern and compassion and understanding not be treated like objects not to use terms like export and import when we are talking about a young person who is from surrey who is going to live with foster parents in hackney and the terminology is export-import like we are good like we are services like we are boxes of coffee or something is wrong so we need to end that.
We need to create an environment that is safe and takes care of the needs of young people who are from minority groups so this is whether these are people who are more likely to um experience racism um because of the color of their skin or effing ethnic origin their religious beliefs or their religious stuff and that whether or not we’re a sexual minority whether that has been gay bisexual transgendered etc we need to ensure the system is working extra sensitively to support these young people because they will carry an increased level of anxiety around their issues in terms of their life and stuff like that need to commit to providing the best care possible and above all, all of this needs to be done with love okay yes love we need to as best we can replicate the concept of a family, not the traditional family from 30 years ago but the modern concept of a family i.e one or more adults taking care of children in the best way that they can now much of this does require a lot more extra money being put into the system but above all what this requires is is a commitment from government and a commitment from a variety of organizations whether they’re statutory or non-statutory whether they’re volunteering voluntary organizations or whether it’s the department of health the department of education the department of work and pensions and that’s another one we need to end completely sanctions against young people who are in the care system in regards to their benefits because it has absolutely catastrophic consequences as you can imagine where do they go when they lose their accommodation because the house and benefit has been stopped because they’ve not turned up at the um for a dwp appointment
We also need to end the stigma as well so there needs to be a commitment to end in stigma and discrimination faced by care experienced people and the best way to do this is to make care experienced people the 10th protected characteristic within the equality act because then this builds it into law and builds into legislation that extra work needs to be done in order to meet the needs of this our diverse community okay thank you
To expand on what I’ve already said um in creating the new.
The care system they need to make sure that it does what it says on the tin care at the moment it’s child management they use a term corporate parent which needs to be got rid of as well there’s no parenting at all it’s corporate child management basically so there needs to be a public awareness campaign about um care experienced people about the challenges that we face about the stigma and discrimination especially in regards to aces which is adverse childhood experiences score and the long-term effects that has on our health and well-being not just our physical health but our mental health as well there needs to be awareness around trauma and the whole thing needs to be trauma informed in regards to the fact that a large majority of people entering the care system will be experiencing a degree of trauma and that drama will be quite likely not only the abuse and neglect they experience but also the trauma of going into the care system there needs to be work around the shame um that people in the care system feel about being in care and the public need to be made aware that we’re not all bad naughty kids and that if we are exhibiting of care experienced young people or experiencing bad behavior it’s the behavior not them it’s the behavior not them it’s a behavior not them they are not bad their behavior is challenging and their behavior is challenging for a reason is because if you know about trauma and you know about neglect and you know about abuse in early childhood it rewires your brain so that needs to be a key component of the of the care review as well about looking at holistic approaches to healing and rewiring young people’s brains they need to be about building their self-esteem and their and their mental health it needs to be about them becoming in control of their own emotions and feelings and raising awareness within the young people themselves of how to manage their behavior and how to manage their unresourceful thoughts and feelings in a more proactive way so this will require a huge amount of training to be undertaken with anyone that works with young people have been in the care system we’re in the care system there’s a term it takes a village to bring up a child so we need to take a village approach this means that there are a variety of people not all of them professionals with qualifications that are involved in the young person’s life and these people need to be healthy stable secure reliable individuals are going to be on the young person’s side for as long as possible and this does include after they have left the care system there needs to be more supports made available to anyone who grew up in their care system all care experienced people of all ages things are better now very support to go to university and stuff like that i got not much support to go to university.
I did it off my own back my mum was dying at the same time as well so and i was working 60 hours a week so it was just a bit of a challenge as you can imagine to get myself to university uh the whole system needs to be about building up empowering young people when they enter it as soon as possible you know there needs to be interventions people who work in care homes or what i used to call children’s homes need to be much better trained and also there needs to be a much better approach in regards to managing behavior anyone who rings the police because a young person’s broken a plate ought to be reprimanded very strongly and very significantly and very heavily because it’s not how you go about doing things so this is all under peering under training and awareness raising and the whole fact that this needs to be extremely well managed this needs to be executed very well and um mostly undertaken by people who grew up in the care system themselves we need to be involved much more than we are many of us are experts in regards to this because we’ve experienced it ourselves and some of us have worked in a variety of public um public sector settings and voluntary and community settings as well so we also have that awareness health education anyone involved in commissioner of services especially for young people and specifically young care experienced people need to have a much better awareness and training around what our issues are and what needs to be done in order to help to support us across the whole gamut of services public services as well there needs to be a much better and more wider range of support made available to young people not just going into um university education but a whole range of things.
Commissioning is very important we must end commissioning services to the same old people just because they are who they are and I’m not going gonna name them, but some of these organizations have been involved in this since the victorian times you know we need to change all of this commissioning needs to be a lot better care experienced people need to be involved in the commissioning of services as well in the commissioning of of of of anything to do with young people who are in the care system or even older people have been in the care system in regards to criminal justice a lot more needs to be done to support young people to prevent them from going into the criminal justice system as i said you know you’re 40 times more likely to be involved in the criminal justice system and i’m being politically correct here but means basically that you’re 40 times more likely to be incarcerated in a prison or you send you for sending center and this isn’t down to the fact that you’re a bad boy or a bad girl it’s because you um they may have um bad behavioral traits which aren’t being managed appropriately and they’re not able to be supported enough to manage their own behavior and they end up in the criminal justice system because they’ve been let down and also because they’re quite rightly angry and the way they have been treated wouldn’t you be angry if you’ve been passed from pillow to post from one place to another if you’re described as a lack lack looked after child you know and wouldn’t you be angry if um you just get used to one social work when another one turns up and you have to tell your life story again you know and there’s not a there’s not enough knowledge around or knowledge being applied around the damage that trauma and neglect does.
! strongly recommend people working on the review to read books around it especially the body it keeps the score because that really clearly sets out how damaging abuse and neglect can be in early childhood and that’s not to say that this is a prescription for what is definitely going to happen to people who’ve been abused and neglected obviously it’s not because we have power over our own emotions and feelings but we need support we need support we need support in order to do that resilience doesn’t just happen magically it requires a lot of commitment from people working with young people and there’s a lot of commitment a lot of patients a lot of understanding for it to happen because you have to remember that people young people who are in the care system have been badly let down in the past by adults so why are they going to trust people you know i can’t emphasize this strongly enough you know whatever replaces the current system really needs to have its foundations in the in in being patient and being understanding being all of these things and it isn’t about money and writing cheques, it’s not necessarily about this because many of these qualities are actually free and are actually human qualities you know it takes a village to bring up a child which means that it’s not just the parents’ mum & mum dad and dad mum and dad whoever it is it’s a variety of different people who take an interest in that child’s life in a positive positive interest in that child’s life and trauma informed and aces (adverse childhood experiences) training should be mandatory for anyone that is working within that field or in that sector even if it’s on the outside of it in some way it needs to be mandatory because it underpins everything it does you know we are not bad people we are not they are not bad children they are children who have come from awful awful circumstances and we really need to remember that we need to remember it much more than we do and it’s not a case of of of you know being there there there we’ve had a bad childhood you know whatever it’s about really acknowledging that you know to them and helping them to move through it to heal that those traumatized children you know those little boys and little girls inside of them that I care and in fear in fear or the adults that abuse them and helping them to come out tell their stories and heal from it because that is how you heal from it it’s by telling your story and moving through that you know moving past that of it being acknowledged and you being supported to be you know to be then being supported to be the fantastic human beings that they are you know that is it is inside of them.
Care homes or residential homes and foster carers and private companies profiteering from this okay a lot of the homes are unregulated so there’s not really a lot of regulation going on for them they’re run by people and companies to make a profit that’s right to make money so in order to make money they can’t maximize their income so they can’t really increase their income because they will be commissioned by the local authority to do this for a set price so the only way they can increase profit is to is to reduce costs and one of the main costs will be the cost of staff so they won’t pay very much and they don’t pay very much and the entry requirements are basically a level standard education okay so i’m sure i know some are good and some have been many have been off steady and they’ve got good or outstanding but i really don’t believe that from from a lot of anecdotal evidence i’ve been presented with and also from a lot of actual evidence okay there’s a lot of trafficking of young girls especially in their care homes they are a petri dish for recruiting vulnerable young people into criminality okay this is not demonizing the young people who talk they’re very very vulnerable you know and if someone if you’re a young person in a children’s home and you’re dealing with so much and somebody offers you money to do stuff do things you’re gonna do it you know i know that i i lived in sean’s homes you know it doesn’t mean you’re a bad person it just means you’re very vulnerable and open to be manipulated and exploited and that’s what it is it’s manipulation and exploitation or very very unique very vulnerable young people who don’t have a lot of adults really looking out for them you know especially if they’re having like i’ve said before my previous videos three or four social workers a year you know there’s no no consistency or stability there is there you know so you know there should not be any profiteering in this whatsoever people should not be making profit from it you know i might only be three or four children um per per home not like my home i was 15 of us you know but there were lots of staff and trust me they were on us on our case all the time you know very very little we could do that didn’t get their watchful eye on us and anything we did do outside of a home got back to the home you know so
Staff are under pressure to manage very traumatized children who are dealing with very difficult situations in their life and trying to manage a variety of emotions about this and feelings and stuff like that this requires real expert handling of the situation you know and it requires patience as i’ve said before it requires a commitment to these young people around taking care of their needs now you need a lot of training for this you need a lot of experience you need a lot of understanding you need to be able to handle you know challenging behavior in a resourceful way which doesn’t involve restraining that young person okay you need support as well so you need people you can talk to about the situations that you’re dealing with in these environments now when it’s all privatized all of this costs money doesn’t it you know it all costs money to employ someone to to supervise you know for staff to go to for supervision it will cost money for really good training it will cost money for all of these things so it’s very unlikely that they will do this and local authorities aren’t always really good at actually you know um monitoring these situations they’re paying money they’ve paid money out of their bank accounts to these organizations to provide these services now they’re not always very good at managing this these situations you know and it’s not good because the young people are let down you know there are some good care homes there’s some really good experiences from people you know i know several people that run care homes they do a really good job of it but most of those were people who grew up in the system so they know what it’s like do you know what i mean so um and they do really good work with their young people but quite often the people who are running these homes don’t have a clue at all you know it’s about profit really you know it’s about you know what they see as an easy way of making money uh and that’s wrong and it’s the same with foster care agencies you know you’re basically the local authorities is commissioning an agency to manage foster carers you know so that the money they’re paying the agency could be directed solely at supporting and paying the foster carers to do the roles that they’re doing but it’s nice going to an an organization that has to employ staff to do this employ social workers to do this you know so do you get what i’m saying you know there should not be any profiteering in this whatsoever the money available should be more for a star and it should be directed purely solely at running these services not going to companies that are going to be middlemen and taking a a fairly substantial cut of that money themselves you know to to either pay their shareholders or directors you know in profits and the people who miss out other young people in these in these situations because they’re not being supported and i know as i’ve said you know they’re we’re talking about thousands of vulnerable young people in care homes that are exploited either sexually exploited into into grooming gangs sexually exploited into in in into selling sex or exploited by criminal gangs in involved in in in in either drug dealing or or kind of major theft and where did these young people end up most went out back into the criminal justice system and inside because the people who are exploiting them will do one you know where people who exploit them aren’t going to be around when they’re arrested by the police you know and end up in prison you know so there should be no profiteering whatsoever in this you know um i don’t know i mean the local authority or there should be independent charities that are running this are heavily heavily regulated and have all the right resources not just financial resources directed at them but human resources intellectual resources experience resources there should be there should be there should be care leavers involved in this process you know so care leavers should be consulted and involved in this process in terms of how these places are going to be run thank you
it’s so important we’re talking about 70 000 young people on average going into the care system every year and that is a lot of lives that are impacted basically and also i feel very strongly that as many care experienced people’s voices absolutely have to be included in this there’s no good in getting the same old people around the table because you’ll get the same old answers as simple as that okay so this is about leaving care a very critical time for people who have been in the care system if you remember i gave the statistics the terrible statistics about you know the more times more likely to be homeless and more time likely to be in the prison system more times more likely to be selling sex more times likely to die before the age of 25 this is because of mainly because of that window of time when people are leaving the care system and they fall through the cracks they’re more vulnerable for for being a rough sleeper more vulnerable for being caught up in their criminal justice system okay so when i left the care system back in 1987.
I was earning I think 67 pounds a week at the time and the local rents were 35 pounds a week not including bills not including food not including transport to work so you do the maths, okay I kicked up a fuss I stayed until I was 18 and a half and thankfully I found what would be called supported lodgings today for £25 a week and my food was included and I was cooked for basically um my leaving care grant was pounds a week’s rent and nothing else and my social worker um met me six months later which they’re not supposed to do uh because I was completely left a care system only because she’d been my social worker all my life basically so she cared.
you see today is better they get what is called a leaving care ground which some people see as a considerable sum of money but when you think about what it’s got to buy in terms of starting their life in the big bad world big wide world away from the system that bought them up and I used um bought up loosely you know 1500 pounds to buy washing machine oven fridge bed all of that isn’t a lot of money really is it you know and um there’s not much support given to a sort of access you know charity places or um charity shops and why should they go to a charity shop you know why should they get secondhand furniture and that you know they deserve you know some comforts at least now the age of exiting the care system has is different if your kids’ homes or residential care is 18 if you’re in foster care it’s 21. and then there is some kind of support in 2u 25. now this varies from local authorities to local authority it changed a couple of years ago in regards to the local authority supporting someone to do some educational activity or route into employment um it’s not what I would call proper support anyway in my previous job at the care leavers.
I gave a number of talks and I’m very good at public speaking and presenting information largely to an all-female audience mainly because that is the makeup of clinical commissioning groups the NHS and leaving care services it was primarily the NHS because it was the department of health funding I would ask a question to the audience and i would say at what age those of you have children at what age did you tell your children you will never see them again they must leave the home set up life on their own and go was it 18 or 21 you know and they must not come back and maybe if they were lucky you will meet them for a coffee and a chat now and then then the audience kind of like chuckled you know that that parent chuckle flat kell they’re still at home i wish i’d go you know um so they got the message that in the real world usually people leave home when they can and they leave home with a lot of support and a lot of love and a lot of care and you can always go back home always rely on bank of mom and dad normally you know groans went up around the audience yeah yeah i still give my kids money you know they have that luxury looked after children and care leavers don’t have that luxury everything is cut by a certain age by 25 it’s all cut by 21 18 or 21 it’s mostly cut apart from if you go into education and employment you know mainly university education you get a lot of support now often they’re accommodated very poorly you know some are put in hostels you know if you’re a vulnerable young person at 16 or 18 you may have seen some other tv programs about this on channel 4 and bbc you know you’re 17 and you put into a flat on your own and there’s no one around because you know you you got moved from one place to another so you were in i don’t know say you’re in leicester and then you got moved to a to a foster family or a residential home in manchester there’s no one you know in leicester anymore because you spent the last three years in manchester or you might not really know many people in manchester so normally social isolation is a huge issue you know and when i did activities that the care leaves when we asked people who were leaving the care system what they wanted but most of them said i want to feel that someone cares about me i want to feel loved because you know when they’re when they’re put out there on their own there’s no one coming around to check on them or look after them or see how they are doing no one no one to to do that kind of thing that mum or dad would do if they were living at home you know check this food in the fridge check that out they’ve got their bills set up check they’ve got the direct debits for the council tax on whatever is all set up you know check that the house was safe you know look in on them take them out for dinner or something you know help them cook all of these things it’s often lacking when kids leave care now some of some people are placed in a hostel how can you place a 16 or 17 year old who is very very vulnerable in a hostel with people who who who may have um be on really early release from prison you know people who might have drug and alcohol issues i’m not blaming these people so you know people who’ve got significant mental health issues you’re placing them in a situation that isn’t safe for them you know and they’re vulnerable to to a lot of things a lot of exploitation and stuff like that they should not be placing that sort of accommodation i really feel that some kind of supported lodgings is a way forward you know for many of them you know um and that should be in place for as long as they need it you know uh or they should be it should be special you know flats or or or accommodation that has a support built in with it for as long as they need that support so a stage not age approach okay also i feel there needs to be some kind of befriending service and this is an idea i had when i was at cla that you you get a volunteer or community organization or a charity or whatever who who provides this service is completely removed from a local authority it’s not part of a looked after children’s services or care leaving services it’s completely separate and it is mostly people who grew up in the castle i’m sure there’s loads of people who grew up in cairo who would want to do this you know or people who were foster parents or foster carers you know who who aren’t doing at the moment and just want to help but have the knowledge and expertise to support and basically it would be primarily for excuse me for care leavers who’ve just left the care system but it’d be for all care experienced people even the older ones like me who might just need someone to talk to um meet up for a coffee when we’re allowed to meet up for coffee that is um and talk about life and just to sort of get someone who understands what it’s like to have been in the care system and to feel alone and to feel i slayed and feel separated from life you know but for the younger ones these these befrienders will play a very important role they will really support the young person as much as they can so it’s up to the young person it could be they just want to go for a pizza and and a chat on a saturday afternoon or they might want to go to the park or do an activity together but the person would come into their life they’d come into their accommodation their flat or whatever it was and be of support to them whatever that support might be to help them feel less isolated and alone in the world and help them to build up a network and build up skills and build up confidence in themselves you know so they don’t feel completely isolated and alone and separate from society you know and it will it will give them someone to talk to who knows what it’s like because they’ve been there you know and they can share their expertise you know help them encourage them you know take them to the supermarket to do food shopping and all that kind of thing you know which is often lacking because you know leaving care services are overwhelmed in what they’re doing and obviously you know they’re under pressure to get rid of the young person as soon as they can and i will say it because that’s pretty much what happens you know and and this will hopefully reduce the isolation it will reduce the risks that they might have in terms of being exploited by people because when you’re a vulnerable young person especially when you’re a vulnerable young person who probably has complex post-traumatic stress injury has some kind of underlying mental health issues related to the abuse or trauma they experienced when they were children are far more risk being exploited than anybody else especially if they’ve got no family around around them whatsoever and especially if they do have family around them who aren’t very good for them you know in terms of support and mental health you know so these befrienders will reduce that because they they will be able to talk to the young people honestly and openly about the risks that they are um open to in terms of other people and give them worldly knowledge to become worldly wise to these um nasty individuals that prey on vulnerable people in order to get them into a life of crime or get them into um being sexually exploited you know so the accommodation is critical no hostels ever ever ever ever ever ever no hostels never placed in hostel always placed in accommodation as far as i can where it’s near their social networks if they built up social networks in their local area you know it needs to be um appropriate accommodation you know not not a flat on some estate in the middle of nowhere you know it needs to be you know places that that is good for the young person that’s close to their their employment close to education if they’re in education you know if they’re receiving medical support or mental health support needs to be close to where they get their mental health mental medical health mental health support i know this is a lot to do but it’s important it’s so so important because you would not do that to your own child you know and again you need to ask that question would i put my own child in this accommodation would i want my own child to live here would I say to my child well you know to go and live 30 miles away from your work you know no you wouldn’t do that so we need to come back to that question of would I put my child there so the people who are looking at this need to ask that question in their hearts and be honest would I want this for my own child would I put my own child in this situation and if you wouldn’t then you don’t do it as simple as that it’s not good enough your own child is not good enough for other peoples the grants I think perhaps need to be more money but staggered over a period of time or you need to work with you know the providers of the white goods the ovens the tvs the sofas the beds you know uh maybe ikea or whoever I don’t know um to get a hugely discounted price for the young people so that their money goes a lot further you need to have a stage not age-appropriate so the young person leaves when they’re ready to leave and not sooner and they’re supported to be in that right place you know and not put under pressure which is often the case when they’re under pressure to leave at a certain point in time and obviously there needs to be um the work around learning independence needs to be completely um there as well and and committed to in terms of of supporting the young person i have seen a few tv programs around this you know one in particular i remember this lad and when he was so vulnerable you’re so immature uh and i’m like there’s no way he’s going to survive on his own and a little flat you know kicking around not knowing what to do with himself you know feeling isolated and vulnerable and alone it broke my heart it really did you know and that is not what we deserve it’s not what the young people in the care system deserve you know they deserve to have the best start in life they possibly can have you know in order to be you know as successful as they possibly can be you know because the odds are stacked against them in some ways already you know and we need to reduce that completely thank you