Dear Mr Miliband (or May I call you Ed?)
I really do appreciate the fact that it must be incredibly hard to lead a political party that is seeking to win the next General Election – particularly when you seem to have so many people sitting in ‘the wings’ merely waiting for you to make a less than perfect decision or say something that might be scurrilously misinterpreted by the media. I am a social worker and I have lived with this type of pressure for the last 40 years – less publicly certainly but perhaps on even more critical issues than at times you find yourself talking about.
You probably don’t even know that I have written to you a couple of times and even – despite my rather aged fear of social media – tweeted to you? I feel sure that given the pressure under which you work there are other people who deal with your correspondence and as such I wonder if perhaps this open letter might find it’s way into your busy schedule rather more effectively than my previously and self evidently poor attempts to engage you. Please don’t feel that I am targeting you for special attention or criticism – I have written and tweeted to many of your Shadow Cabinet colleagues too and haven’t heard from them either.
I need to say that I listened to your speech this week and I thought it sounded rather splendid. I agreed with so much of what you said about inequality in our society; how those who appear to need help most do at times seem to be the ones who struggle to get it and how we seem at times to be a society in which the chasm between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’ appears to be growing faster than the polar ice sheets are shrinking. Bravo!
I would though like to mention a group in our society who my friends (or should I say like minded individuals in relation to the group I am referring to? Luckily I seem to have well over 8000 who have formally declared their allegiance) and I feel you really could do with thinking about.
This group are comprised of children and those approaching adulthood - well, in chronological terms anyway – they have all had really bad starts in life and have been brought up through at least some of their childhood by you, me and the rest of our society, their Corporate Parents. ‘My group’ are children in residential care. Great kids, wonderful individuals who now and for the last two or three generations have been disadvantaged by our society.
Regardless of how busy you must be I am certain that you have been aware of the discussions around ‘staying put’. You may well not have heard about Every Child Leaving Care Matters but that’s OK. Last December the Government announced that children in foster care would be able to have the option to stay with their foster carers until they were twenty-one years of age – Great news we all thought and waited for the rest of the announcement which would surely ( we wrongly thought) extend that option to kids in residential care. It didn’t come, it still hasn’t come. What do you think about that Mr M? We know many of your colleagues in Labour's parliamentary group are shocked, disappointed or horrified at this inequality as they have told us so, though it might be considered invidious if we were to name them. We would, however, ask that if you do win that General Election in May 2015 and are looking to fill your Cabinet that you look toward Mr Bill Esterson as someone who seems to understand more than most about children’s social care.
We have only one request to put to you. Will you please say that you support the recommendations of the Education Select Committee ‘Into independence, not out of care: 16 plus care options’ and specifically that the option for ‘staying put’ in their placement should be available to all children not just those in foster placements.
Obviously I could go on and there is so much more I would like to tell you about children in care but I realise that you are busy. If you do want to learn a little more about children in care I know many such children and adults who have survived or worked with Care survivors who would be delighted to talk to you.
If you could just take 30 seconds to do as I ask I would be grateful to and respect you.
On behalf of the ECLCM Campaign