Support when leaving care and a desire to be treated as an individual were two of the key themes identified by young people at a special session of the Care Inquiry on Saturday 1 December. The young people, who came from across the UK and had experience of foster care, residential care, adoption and kinship care shared their thoughts with staff from the eight Inquiry charities.
Listening to those with experience of the care system is integral to the work that the Care Inquiry is doing. The session included discussions between the young people based around their experiences of care and what they felt worked and what didn’t.
One young person who has now left the care system said “I was supported according to my age, not because of the needs I had”, adding “there is a lack of care when you become a care leaver”. Another contributed: “I’m not a case. I am a person and I want to be supported in choosing a positive path in life.”
Robert Tapsfield, chair of the Care Inquiry steering group, said: “We need a much more nuanced understanding of what the evidence tells us works and a greater emphasis on making the right decisions for each child. This is why talking to young people in an environment where they can be open and honest is so vital.”
The young people also discussed the issue of culture and background, with several expressing that it was important to be with carers who could understand why their identities were so important to them. When discussing their previous placements, one young person said “it makes no sense to put children just anywhere. You have to communicate, discover my background to meet my best interests”. They also added: “I want to fit in. My culture and background have to be taken into a count. Love is not all you need.”
Natasha Finlayson, chief executive of The Who Cares? Trust, the charity which co-ordinated the consultation with young people, said: “The children and young people with first-hand experience of the care system who have taken part in this consultation are committed to helping decision makers understand more about the good and bad sides of being in care, and about how to increase stability in care.
“It is our duty as the Care Inquiry to listen and learn from them. It is essential that our recommendations are informed and guided by the lived experience and opinions of these young people.”
The eight charities running the Inquiry hold different perspectives, but are all united on the importance of understanding the evidence. The Care Inquiry is bringing together their knowledge and expertise, together with academics, others involved in and living within care, and organisations involved in providing services to help develop a set of recommendations which will influence the provision of services in the future.
We are still encouraging people to come forward and submit written evidence to the Care Inquiry. You can find out how here.