Ed Nixon, Acting Chair of ECLCM, writes:
Over 25 years ago Willy Russell wrote a great play (in my view) called ‘Our Day Out’. It had a resonance for me as I sat on the 0847 from Lime Street to London with three colleagues as we made our way to Euston to join the rest of us (non-scouser) members of the campaign. The play was about ‘deprived children’ from Liverpool who had a day out in Conway. Our day on 11th September was on behalf of ‘deprived’ care leavers – those deprived of the opportunity to stay put in their placements, should they so wish, until they are 21 years of age.
Thanks to Mr Craig Whittaker, MP ECLCM had been afforded the chance to have a high profile meeting in Portcullis House, Westminster. This turned out to be a diverse group of individuals and organisations who, it transpired, have a great deal of sympathy with our campaign’s single issue – that children leaving residential care should have the same option as their ‘peers’ in foster care – to remain cared for and supported until they are twenty-one years of age, an age when young men and women not ‘looked after’ frequently continue to look forward to several more years of being supported, supplemented and subsidised by their parents.
Mr Whittaker reminded us that in political terms this is absolutely not a ‘vote winner’ but that it is ‘the right thing to do’. The main obstacle to including children leaving residential care into existing legislation is money – though just how much money is debatable when one considers the long term costs associated with a failed care system.
As may have been expected as the debate was opened, a whole range of issues surrounding the failures and short-comings of ‘the care system’ were voiced. Laudable though the suggestions were to challenge how, as a society, we care for our ‘looked after children’ no better now that forty years ago; as a campaign group, we had to focus on our single issue. It was great to hear Kathy Evans from Children England remind the meeting that though our petition may have only(!) have a little under 8000 signatories, through the motion carried by her organisation supporting this cause, we can reasonably claim a more realistic figure of 108,000.
We determined in the meeting to establish an ‘e-group’ to enhance and broaden our ability to share the message and garner support for the cause. We agreed that as the forthcoming general election draws near and candidates seek our votes we should ask those perhaps less socially aware (we would say) than Mr Whittaker and the likes of his colleague Mr Bill Esterson MP, where they stand on or even what they know about children in care. We asked all of those present and this seemed to be well received that they ‘proselytise’ the ECLCM message and promote the cause in order that we can go eventually away with the job done.
The sad message of ‘Our Day Out’ , in my view, is that those who were taken on a brief trip away from their deprived reality are reminded at the end of the day of their depressing situation and even bleaker future leading to the stark realisation that a day out is about as much as they can expect. We expect so very much more than those in Russell’s play. We expect and will not disappear until every child leaving care is given an equal opportunity to remain ‘staying put’ until they are twenty-one. Not in fact until Every Child Leaving Care Matters.
The notes of our day and our presentation will be circulated to members imminently. If you would like a copy just join us – it’s free!