General Elections appear to generate far less excitement and enthusiasm than they should. Consider the Scottish referendum – now there was a great example of democracy. The massive majority of the population of Scotland was exercised by the issue and they showed it. Passionate people who really wanted to be heard on an issue that meant a great deal to them. By comparison the forthcoming British General Election appears at times to be focussed more on style than substance; why else would the media be more concerned with who is going to be part of a televised debate than, for example, why none of the parties have said anything about the discrimination against a group of vulnerable Britons who have been consistently failed by our society for at least the last forty years? A group who, unlike their contemporaries in the ‘Scottish Referendum’, are disenfranchised by virtue of their age knowing that by the time they are eligible to vote it will be too late.
As either a supporter or even casual observer of the ECLCM campaign we would like you to think very hard about the forthcoming election. Of course many of you will already be politically active but the probability is that the majority of you and indeed some of those more directly involved in ECLCM are not. We must though engage with politicians across the country if we are to succeed in having the option to ‘Stay Put’ extended to children in residential care. Great though it is to garner support from local councillors we are aware that whilst we already know that many local politicians support our campaign they are largely powerless to do anything. First they need the law to change and second they need the money to implement any such change. Local councillors do, though, have an important part to play in influencing their Westminster nominees so can we suggest you do something proactive wherever you live to help us make the case for residential care leavers in particular and perhaps all children in care in general?
All MP’s and Local Councillors should surgeries for their constituents and you will find that all those who are seeking to become MP’s or join the local council in May will have both public meetings and surgeries(a few may knock on your door and canvas for your vote) in the next few months. Please book in to attend these meetings and ask some questions. For example:
1) Do you believe in equality of opportunity?
2) Do you support the ECLCM campaign? (When, as is likely, you get a blank response please tell them what this single issue campaign is about) and re-phrase as…..
3) Where do you stand on the issue of ‘Staying Put’ for children leaving residential care?
4) Where does your party stand on this issue?
5) Will your party make any reference to ‘Staying Put’ in their manifesto? If not, why not? If so what is your and/or your Party’s commitment to supporting the option being given to residential care leavers until they are 21?
6) (To councillors / would be councillors only) If Central Government provided sufficient funding would you and your party support Staying Put option for residential care leavers?
This may seem like we are asking you to do a lot but if you care about care leavers then we are certain that you will be willing to do so. Children in care who are approaching care leaving age will not have a vote – please use yours wisely, in part on their behalf, and like our partners in Scotland make this an election that counts. Any effort you put in may be rewarded by giving perhaps just a single child have a better life because like the vast majority of us in this country they will not be automatically evicted from home when they are somewhere between sixteen and eighteen years of age. That will make any effort you put in to making democracy work worthwhile. Won’t it?
In terms of what we’ve been up to ….we have had a meeting (exclusively thanks to our supporter Cllr Nina Killen) with members from Sefton MBC including the Cabinet lead on Children’s social care. We fully appreciate that finance is as we were told a major challenge but the principle of all children in care having the option of staying put until 21 was not challenged.
We are scheduled to meet with and make a presentation to the Labour Group from Liverpool City Council on 30th January and will follow this up with their counterparts in Warrington in March. Obviously we are grateful to all of these politicians for agreeing to meet with us and also to Steve McCabe the Labour Shadow Cabinet member in Westminster who has – in some part thanks to Bill Esterson MP – agreed to meet with us to discuss ECLCM and (though he doesn’t know it yet!) one of our group will be joining a constituent of Andy Burnham’s in one of his constituency surgeries in February. Limited resources we may have – passion and commitment in abundance. Please fight with us.