Today I awoke feeling very indifferent and in a slight mood over failure of the government to accept the “16 plus care options” recommendations of the Education Select Committee.
I reflected on my own experience over the last 10 months, and particularly my efforts as part of ECLCM to gain equal rights for ALL young people leaving care to have equal after care support, the same as their peers and siblings are offered in foster care.
It seems to me as though this government don't really have an appetite or don't really care about every child leaving care. I find this shameful and disappointing, that in 2014 we at ECLCM have to campaign for something that should be standard in our society -"Equality". How can we offer support to one group of young people and not the other? I have had young people ask me personally what makes them different. They are understandably angry and shocked at the different options available to fostered young people. Can we blame them? No!
It feels to me like young people leaving a residential children’s home are not being treated fairly at all. All young people need support regardless of where they live.
I thought we lived in a society where we were all equal, all people. Discrimination is not accepted in any other form and rightly so. But it seems that if we are talking about children and young people who are leaving residential care, it is OK. That is blatant discrimination - but no public outcry.
As we know and as has been stated before, children and young people who are ‘looked after’ or care leavers aren't vote winners. I understand that. But even still this government should be doing what is morally right.
I have noticed since I started campaigning I have lost some support from charities, organisations and some individual people. That makes me sad because I only ever set out to make a difference. Nobody was speaking out for children leaving children’s homes until ECLCM was formed. Amazingly, we even took abuse from people who have since quietly signed the ECLCM petition.
If ‘Staying Put’ had not introduced discrimination towards children leaving children’s homes, ECLCM would never have been formed – there would have not been any need. I remember the day that the implementation of ‘Staying Put’ for children leaving foster care was announced. I was in London on a panel with a group of young people. We were questioning some European experts about a European project I was involved in at London University. All the young people with me all happened to live in residential children’s homes and were visibly upset and angry about the new policy. I told them I would do what I could, and as a result we formed ECLCM. ECLCM has been through the wars, but has survived to be an excellent and committed team. We have no sponsors, no funding, no political affiliations, not ties – other than a firm commitment to get justice for all care leavers. We pay our costs out of our own pockets. We do this out of passion, not for money.
It was ECLCM that initiated the conversation about injustice to young people leaving care and the discriminatory nature of ‘Staying Put’ as it was to be implemented. Amazing as it seemed to us then and now, others appeared to be happy to do nothing. We have been involved in lots of discussions, meetings and ‘round table’ events. Even so, we never seem to get a mention. As a colleague said ‘ECLCM is invisible’.
As far as we are concerned, others can have the credit and funding for pilots and research that we believe doesn't need doing. We worry that ‘research’ and ‘pilots’ are simply means of kicking the issue of equal aftercare rights for all young people leaving care into the long grass so it does not get addressed, and the government does not have to pay for it. Cynical? Perhaps, but the last 10 months have made me that way. All ECLCM want is equality of support - not funding or credit. Acknowledging our efforts and contribution would be nice for the team and the consistent and resilient work they do with little appreciation, but we can live without it.
One wonderful reward we have already had for our efforts is the right to look ALL care in the eye, knowing that we did our best for them – and knowing that they know it too. A priceless reward which not everyone can claim.
I may have made mistakes and my passion has sometimes run away with me on this journey, but at least I'm trying, as are my friends in the ECLCM team and our supporters.
After nearly a year in to my first ever campaign I'm a year older, wiser and much more aware of the things that actually go on behind the scenes.
These are just my personal thoughts at a very disappointing time for care leavers following the rejection by the government of the Select Committee recommendations in the lead up to NCLW2014. How brilliant it would have been to announce some real change and offer hope to thousands of young people in time for NCLW2014!
After one of the best pieces of work the Select Committee have done I find it simply ridiculous that this government want more research. To me it just shows this government don't care about every child leaving care. Not like us and thousands of others who believe and know ‘Every Child Leaving Care Matters’.