I am not at all sure what drove my early thinking towards altruism but it's always been easy to assume that my dysfunctional family and becoming subject to a 'care order' in the 1970's played its part. Institutionalised care during that period was awash with scandal and abuse in all its forms and god only knows what it was like in any distant past, from workhouses to orphanages.
I find it hard to believe today that systemic failings continue to negatively affect looked after children and young people, when there is robust legislation already in place to prevent such. If that wasn't difficult enough to understand, the current political incumbents are hell bent on creating discriminatory legislation for certain looked after young people? I sometimes wonder, relative to history, how it is possible to seemingly learn nothing and fly in the face of good and proven philosophy?
Democracy and equality, in philosophy if not entirely in practice, were born over 2000 years ago and all the philosophical notions of welfare and well being in some way are ancient and principled ideals. How is it possible in the 21st century to get things so horribly wrong when history is littered with failed examples of bad governance and despicable treatment and abuse of those most vulnerable in society?
Its 150 years since Barnado formed a charity for those exploited and vulnerable children in Victorian Britain and barely a 100 years since the suffragettes fought for the emancipation of women and equality of rights and opportunity. Through two world wars, the formation of the NHS, reams of international legislation, the 25 year old Children Act and still we have to suffer the tyranny and inequities of insensitive and uncaring governance.
My experience of the 'care system' was actually pretty awful and in later life I tried, through being employed in the same authority, to make a difference and that too proved to be pretty awful. Political machinations, corrupt local authority, crisis management, historical abuse scandals and many other issues all played their part in bringing the systems into disrepute and the lives of young people into chaos and dereliction.
Fortunately for me I met some very endearing and capable professionals along the way that over time have become very close friends, I would even consider them my family if I am honest. Without these few individuals my life would have been lost I believe because they consistently remained there for me when i faltered and failed or attempted to look me up or support me when I was isolated. I suffered cancer last year and lost a lung in the process of 3 major operations to save my life and those same professionals-friends-family, were there by my side helping and encouraging me to pull through. So far so good!!
The reason why every chilld leaving care matters and why every looked after child or young person deserves equality in status is simple, it is their fundamental right! They deserve the best society can offer them to make up for that which they have lost or suffered. They deserve the same opportunities, the same education, the same employment, the same welfare and the same considerations. There may be differences between children and their placements but there is categorically no difference with respect to their inalienable rights!
They deserve no more and no less than equality because not only does every child leaving care matter but every child everywhere is our legacy to a better world.
Mahatma Ghandi said, “the greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”
What does it say about our nation if we cannot treat our children right?
Care Leaver, Former Youth Offending Team, Former Residential Worker