Monday, 20 January 2014

Edward Timpson Does Care

I can’t remember how I first heard about the government press release, ‘Children to stay with foster families until 21’, but, I do remember I felt bewildered by a press release that began ‘All children in care…’ but by the end of the first sentence had excluded over 6,000 children in residential care.

What is going on?

This was the new support that would be available to children living not in residential homes but in foster homes until they were 21 years of age. At the moment when a child in care reaches their sixteenth birthday, they begin the journey to leaving care – some do leave when they are only 16.

Almost immediately discussions ensued between Ben Ashcroft, Ian Dickson, Lisa Cherry, Ed Dixon, Louise Holt and myself and we decided to start this campaign: Every Child Leaving Care Matters.

We believe this statement 100% - EVERY Child Leaving Care Matters.

I’m sure Edward Timpson believes this too. His own family fostered nearly 90 children, and I imagine his parents will have supported many of the children they fostered. However, there is a reason he has campaigned for children in foster care to have support until they are 21. He has had first hand experience of seeing so many young children moved on, or asked to leave his family home and I can only imagine that he concluded that in some instances, this was wrong. I can only imagine that maybe there were some of those children whom he grew fond of and whom he wanted to support. In the government press release, Timpson said:

‘I know from the many foster children I grew up with how crucial it is for them to be given sufficient time to prepare for life after care.’

So, again, I can only imagine, that Edward Timpson, does care and is aware that children in residential care are even more vulnerable than those in foster care and also need that time and support to 21.

‘Young people leaving care are among the most vulnerable children in our society. Even those who have had a stable placement may have very high levels of need. Many children who have been in the care system have had a childhood full of instability and trauma, with over 62 per cent of looked after children being taken into care due to abuse or neglect.’
(Barnardos - Still Our Children. Case for reforming the leaving care system in England)

The government press release goes on to say: ‘Children in care typically have much lower educational outcomes and are more likely to be out of education, work and training.’ And as our previous blog showed, there are also all the awful statistics that show some care leavers end up homeless, in prison, with mental health problems, pregnant just after leaving care and worse still are four or five times more likely to commit suicide in adulthood. For me, this last statistic is the most worrying one of them all. Because once a young care leaver is dead, there is absolutely nothing anyone can do to help that poor person ever again.

We have had a few worrying comments along these lines via the petition. Just recently, after Scotland announced that from 2015 they will be supporting ALL care leavers until they are 21, they put out this tweet:

As our previous blog mentioned, some care leavers, and others in the care industry prefer to align themselves with those that demonstrate the ‘positive’ portrayal of care leavers.

I believe 100% that positivity is the way forward. I am currently working on a PhD proposal that looks at this very subject, so I believe in the power of positive representation. I want to see an end to the public perception that children in care have done something wrong.

With support from the Scottish Government and Association of Directors of Social Work, Who Cares? Scotland’s 'Give me a chance: phase II' campaign is tackling the stigma and discrimination which children and young people in care and care leavers face.

Here are some podcasts made by some Scottish care leavers:

However, if we are to help the next care leaver who may kill themselves or worse be murdered – and we have been told about both of these distressing acts and have read about them in national newspapers – then we have to keep campaigning. Until there is support to 21 for ALL care leavers, we will have to continue letting the public know about these worrying negative statistics.

"Every human life is worth the same, and worth saving."-J K Rowling. Children in care are the same regardless of where they live.

Stop Press: There is to be an important debate in the House of Commons tonight Tuesday 21st January, 7pm, Watch Live Craig Whittaker, MP will debate the Staying Put agenda for looked-after children in residential care. This will be a chance for Edward Timpson to once again show that he really does care.

Rosie Canning – was once a care leaver but doesn’t live there anymore.