As Christmas approaches, I want to wish all children in care, either living in other family arrangements or in children’s homes, and all children with a social worker a very Merry Christmas. I know this time of year can hold specific challenges and emotions for you, and I will be thinking of you all over the Christmas period.
Over the past year I have heard from many children with experience of the social care system about their experience, and about their hopes and dreams for the future.
It’s clear from the children I speak to that they want all the same things as other children. They want a loving stable home and the opportunities to peruse their dreams. In the Big Ask, the largest ever survey of children, one 15-year-old girl living in foster care that I spoke to said:
‘young people should be able to achieve what they want when they grow up they need love, stability and time with a loving family’
It is my mission to make sure that these children experience the same love and stability that other children do. That’s why in Part 2 of my Independent Family Review I will be publishing a report that examines how we can strengthen sibling relationships within the care system. My office has heard directly from children about how central their sibling relationships are, and I want to do all I can to help them maintain these familial bonds.
This year, the John Lewis Christmas advert started a national conversation about the experiences of children in the social care system. It highlighted that for many children, the Christmas period can be a challenging time, with some children settling into new family arrangements. For those who are living in families that are struggling, Christmas can sometimes bring additional stress.
During the festive period children may want to reach out for support and advice. I want every child with a social worker, in care and those who have left care to feel that they can reach out to my independent advice and advocacy service ‘Help at Hand’. My team will be available over the Christmas period to provide help and advice. The phone line can be accessed on 0800 528 0731 or you can email at: [email protected]commissioner.gov.uk
Last week at my office’s Christmas celebration we sent out flyers for the Help at Hand service as well as presents to some care experienced young people who reached out to my team through IMO (In My Opinion), a digital offering for teenagers in care and care leavers, that my team runs. I am delighted that my team and I were able to brighten up Christmas for some of these young people.
Over the past year it has been a privilege to talk to so many children to have their voices shape my work. Next year, I will be launching a care experienced advisory board to make sure that all of my work is informed by children with experience of the care system.
Merry Christmas to all!