One of the great things about living in a media rich democracy is that people are freely allowed to express their opinions, however well or ill-informed they may be. Perhaps this is surpassed only by the facility to help those expressing opinions that they may have misunderstood something fundamental. The Every Child Leaving Care Matters core group, now happily swollen to eight individuals, fully accepts Mr Narey’s right to express his views and indeed celebrate the fact that he has done so. Perhaps, though, a little clarification may help him or others of similar views become better informed?
Whilst we are most certainly a group of activists we are by no means political, in fact this campaign is determinedly apolitical as may be considered to be evidenced by some well respected parliamentarians supporting our campaign who generally might naturally move into different lobbies in Westminster at division time. We have not accused “every member” of the Conservative Party of mendacity. There is a least one among their number who we and others have (rightly) lauded for his public statements and actions in the pursuit of equality opportunities for children in residential care with their peers in foster care. There are others who have chosen to support the campaign less openly, which is perfectly understandable. Let us be unequivocal we have no political allegiance or agenda and those we advocate for don’t even have a vote.
We are actually proud of being activists; we have no illusions of carrying on the tradition of other more famous and worthy activists such as the Suffragette movement, Stonewall, the anti-Apartheid supporters but we can draw inspiration from such magnificent groups in attempt to highlight and right an injustice. Neither is there anything “lazy’ about us including our philosophy which, in connection with our campaign is, we feel, unlikely to be considered as complex or developed an examination of truth or concepts as perhaps was that of either Nietzsche or Aquinas, for example. We actually all have ‘day jobs’ with which we progress unabated devoting our ‘spare time and energy’ to ECLCM because we believe that we should; it’s really heartening to know that over 5000 people are supporting us in doing so.
A simple message of what this campaign is about for Mr Narey or anyone else who is interested may help – although we have tried to be clear about this before.
We welcome the government’s proposals in respect of children in foster care potentially remaining in their placement until the age of 21; this is an unequivocally good thing. We want the same opportunity to be afforded to children in residential homes.
Mr Narey appears to suggest that we may be critical of what the government has announced as being a “minor development”. Have we said this? No. Have we publicly welcomed this? Yes.
Mr Narey appears to defend Mr Timpson, although we feel sure that he can defend himself, by referencing Mr Timpson’s words “..if I thought that by including children’s homes in staying put arrangements was the right thing to do at this juncture, I would do it in a heartbeat..” We have asked to meet with Mr Timpson so that he can explain to us if not publicly what it is that makes him think it is not the “right thing to do”. He has not taken up the offer. Why is it not the right thing to do Mr Timpson? We ask this for ourselves, of course, and those who tangibly support us but most of all we ask it for the children who we work with, advocate for, represent or in some of our cases remember being. What do professionals working with children in children’s home tell them when they ask “Why are we, why am I different?” We don’t know the answer. We don’t know what to tell those children. Mr Narey, should Mr Timpson choose to talk through you we will listen politely to your answer. We do note that you use the word “we” when referring to the Government so be assured we would accept what you say as being the government’s view and could at least introduce this to the public arena for others to judge.
Mr Narey considers that we are being "inaccurate and unfair" in accusing ministers of being “uncaring” over their reluctance to afford children in children’s homes the identical opportunity to those in foster homes. We are not saying that ministers are “uncaring” per se, but please help us out Mr Narey, why else are these two groups of seemingly identical children being treated differently? Surely any parent of two children would want them to have the same opportunities? If one had two identical twins with identical ability, aims and aspirations and one chose to ask one to leave home at eighteen whilst not the other might one be accused of caring less for one compared to the other? Seems likely to us.
Mr Narey appears to have an ambivalent opinion of our campaign. On the one hand accusing us of an attack on the government whilst later dismissing us as an irrelevance and, we might say, with due respect to all those supportive of our nation of pet-lovers, appearing to draw a comparison between looked after children and kittens. He questions what starting a petition has done for the cause. Well, it was never the intention but it appears to have exercised his mind somewhat. He should not perhaps, dismiss the fact that an unsupported, unfinanced, relatively anonymous group of people who have nothing to gain personally from this campaign have gathered such significant support in such a short time. If we are not having an impact why does he feel the need to insult, dismiss and demean our efforts?
Mr Narey, you are a Government Advisor with, unless we are mistaken, no public mandate. We are a collective concerned for the welfare of looked after children in general and in respect of children who are or will be leaving children’s homes now and in the future. We seek equality for these children with their peers in foster care. We may in your terms have “resorted to a petition”; what else are we to do? Nothing? At least that petition has given us, unlike you, a mandate to ask questions not only on behalf of all the children who are now and will in the future be leaving residential care but also over five thousand others.