IMO – In My Opinion – is the Children’s Commissioner’s digital offering for teenagers in care and care leavers. It is a unique, peer-led website, which serves as a meeting point for children in the care system and care leavers. Somewhere that they share stories, experiences and achievements, get and give advice, and gain access to career advice, training opportunities and content competition prizes.
The project includes:
- a website which receives 16,000 unique page views annually;
- social media channels with a combined following of 3,800; and
- an award-winning podcast series which has been listened to over 9,000 times.
In our annual round up we wanted to share some of the great posts that have gone up on IMO over the past year.
At the end of last year and start of this year we developed a third series of our award winning podcast challenging negative perceptions of those in the care system and encouraging new perspectives. In the series we hear from:
- Jerome, who shares how the suicide of a close friend inspired him to set up The Tope Project, a loving space for care leavers to combat loneliness. He also talks about his journey of healing the traumas he experienced in the care system and living with peace and joy in his present.
- Ashley Jean-Baptiste, who recorded an IMO podcast about his experiences and career three years ago and returns to talk about ambition and founding Be Inspired, an annual event for care experienced young people to take hold of their futures.
- Isabelle, who talks about her ‘corporate parents’ breaking up with her via text, her work using art to make a difference, and the importance of having ownership of your story and your identity.
- Ric Flo, who talks about having a creative or physical outlet as therapy, representation in music and managing relationships with foster carers and biological family. He also shares what inspired him and powerful advice for achieving your goals.
- Scarlett, who talks about the powerful animations she’s created about her own and others’ journeys through the foster care system, being separated from her family and siblings, and the compromises the system causes you to make.
We added to our Turning 25 series, where young people share stories of losing support from their local authority and ran a campaign around this as part of National Care Leavers Week 2022.
We heard from care experienced young people about projects they have been part of or founded:
- Mary-Anne shared why she founded the Guarantor Scheme and wants every care leaver to have the opportunity to rent privately if they want to.
- Louise shared why she started writing plays and the importance of theatre in sharing stories of care, as well as an opportunity to get involved in her latest project.
- Teenagers from Hull Young Voices Influencing Care shared their animation ‘Dream on‘ which aims to challenge people to think differently about what care should be.
- A Coram Story of Care ambassador shared their experience of fostering friendships and creativity in Coram’s Voices Through Time programme.
- Scarlett shared her series of animations portraying journeys through the foster care system.
We shared practical guides for:
- finding discounts, grants, funding and career opportunities
- applying to and starting university
- University and college contacts – support details and funding information for care leavers and care leaver team contacts for UK colleges and universities
We ran a giveaway in partnership with Breethe Wellness App asking for responses around what helps the IMO community look after their mental and physical wellbeing – we will be sharing the responses in the New Year to support other care experienced young people in looking after their health.
We added to our Career Experienced People series with a video from Kim, a care-experienced Project Manager on the Civil Service Fast Stream who did a secondment at Smart Works, a charity offering free career guidance, one-to-one interview support and interview outfits to unemployed women or women on zero hours contracts. She shares what she does day-to-day, the best part of her job and the Care Leaver Programme she has been developing for Smart Works.
We will be sharing the experience of a care leaver on the Civil Service Internship Scheme in the new year and this year shared information about applying for the internship, with applications closing on 8th January 2023.
We ended the year off with a Christmas competition to ask care experienced young people to offer messages of support and advice to their peers over the Christmas period. As part of the competition we sent every teenager in care and care leaver who entered a Christmas present and entered them into our prize draw. The messages they shared were also published to support other care experienced young people through the holiday period. Over Christmas we also teamed up with The Tope Project again sending Christmas presents to be given out in Christmas hampers to care leavers.
In addition to blog posts IMO had a presence at the SmartWorks Care Leaver Programme Launch, a UK charity that exists to give women the confidence they need to reach their full potential, secure employment and change the trajectory of their lives. We will continue working with SmartWorks and will be sharing IMO and Help at Hand promotional materials with care leavers benefitting from the programme.
We also ran a ‘Dear Future Me’ goal setting workshop with a group of children in care and with care leavers. This workshop was shared with Children in Care Councils (CiCCs) and participation officers so that they were empowered to run the workshop themselves. This was part of our communication with Children in Care Councils and key stakeholders to ensure they know about IMO and can share it with the young people they work with. In addition to this we met with social work students who were conducting research into services for children in care and care leavers – helping to spread the work of IMO, Help at Hand and the Children’s Commissioner’s office.
IMO is an integral part of our work to support looked after children and the Children’s Commissioner’s office will continue to put a spotlight on children in care and care leavers in the years to come.