“Care Experienced” – Reflection on a year
Updated: Nov 1
Its National Care Leavers week this week, it’s always a week that makes me think… it’s not one that everyone celebrates or knows about and often it goes by unmarked and missed.
This time last year I began to tell my story and reflect on my own experience of being a care leaver.
One of the many reasons I love working for SJMT is that I have found an organisation that wants to help care leavers and care experienced young people but wants to do it not only for the social impact but because our history tells us we must do this work.
Josiah Mason had a passion for young people who needed help, support, housing and education and he knew that he could help. This story; our history is why over the last year we have worked to really listen to young people and care experienced young people; letting them tell us what are their challenges, what their hopes are and what support they need. By partnering with Peopletoo in April 2021 we were able to work with young people and let them shape and influence the next phase of our Young people’s work at SJMT.
Our Young Peoples Strategy was release in July 2021 and we were overwhelmed with the response not only locally but nationally. Since then we have been working hard to bring our vision to life. Next year will be the beginning of really starting to deliver Young People’s Services again.
0ver the next 5 years, SJMT will focus our energy on 3 aims:
Aim 1: To create quality affordable homes for young people
Aim 2: To help prepare young people to be ready for independent living
Aim 3: To help young people identify and achieve their hopes and plans
All these aims came directly from young people, they have been shaped by care leavers and those who are care experienced. These are what this group of young people need.
What struck me when we agreed these aims and started to hear what the issues were is that not much has changed. It saddens me to think that a system that I was a part of when I was a teenager is the same system now.
Care leavers and care experienced young people are still facing the same challenges I did.
Everybody has a right to have a home, feel safe and have a future but this isn’t always happening. I was in a system that gave me a roof over my head - not a home. I was in a system that wrote me off as a “system kid” – and it would seem this is still happening.
Within 3 years of being put into foster care I had been moved around multiple times and lived with the final family for a few months before I could no longer sustain the placement, I ran away and found myself sofa surfing and walking the streets waiting to find something that I could call my home. Living in women’s hostels and damp bedsits was the start of my housing experience, I remember painting one bedsit bright pink everywhere just so that I didn’t have to look at the mould on the walls.
When I reflect back now I realise that it took many years for me to feel like I had a home and that I felt safe. This was 20 years ago and yet still we have spoken to and heard from young people who have had the same experiences that I did.
If over the next 5 years SJMT meets its aims and support care leavers and care experienced young people to have a home, to feel safe and support then I know that Josiah would be proud that we have used his legacy and our experience for the better of this exclusive group of young people.