Alison Wilkinson gets in touch with this important message and moving video, hoping in particular that you will use the resource and let her know you’ve done so.
National Care Leavers Week 2017
I am writing to you in my role as Youth Services Manager for Bournville Village Trust (BVT), a housing association in the West Midlands founded by George Cadbury in 1900.
Part of my role at BVT involves the strategic management of our supported living scheme for 16-18 year old care leavers, and it is particularly in my role as advocate for them, in which I write to you.
Currently, there are around 94,000 young people in care in the UK*; that’s the same as the amount of people who were estimated to attend Reading Festival this year! There has been a 7% increase in children in care since 2010 and that figure is still rising*.
National Care Leavers Week 2017 runs from the 25th October to 1st November and aims to highlight some of the challenges that care leavers face daily, as well as raise the profile of some of the fantastic work that happens in partnership with, or because of, care leavers.
Earlier this year, BVT had the pleasure of working with Rage Arts on a 4-week film project for the Urban Film Club, which empowers young people to make a professional film of their choice over 3 weeks. Our group were passionate about making a film which challenged the stereotypes of care leavers and positively raised their profile. The result is one of this year’s finalists in Bottle Smoke Film Festival: ‘Hidden Faces’.
The script is an amalgamation of experiences and observations informed by the groups collective entering and growing up through the care system. It is a powerful and poignant piece of theatre from which the group hope positive discussions about those in and leaving care, will emerge.
The theme this year of National Care Leavers Week is ‘togetherness’ and so, it’s fitting that ‘Hidden Faces’ questions how much a part of society young people leaving local authority care feel.
I asked one of the young people what she thought about showing ‘Hidden Faces’ to a group of delegates at a conference next week, her reply was “I think everyone should see it, it explains how a lot of us feel”. I asked her what she meant by that and she elaborated:
“People think, assume, that everyone comes from a ‘normal’ background. They don’t. Not everyone. And sometimes, obviously not everyone, but a lot of people who go through care, well, they have other problems too. Like, they feel rejected by people, sometimes their parents, sometimes other people; or they don’t have or know their family at all. A lot of people I know in care have a hard time. They find it hard to trust people and they have problems. Depression and that. They self-harm or get really angry and no one understands why, sometimes they don’t understand why even! I’m about to move into my own property as I turn18. I’ve decorated it and all that, but I don’t know….I don’t feel happy. I don’t feel like I deserve it; it feels like things are going too well, and I’m waiting for it to fall apart.”
Another care leaver who I spoke with a few weeks ago, who is now a mum in her 40s said something similar:
“I was angry when I was younger. I didn’t know what I was angry about, but I was angry. I’d go round to friend’s houses for tea, and because I went to a school in a nice area; those houses were really big and really nice; and I felt…like I was trespassing in some way, like I didn’t belong there, I was out of place. And that made me angry too. And upset.”
The young people who made ‘Hidden Faces’ wanted to show the depths of complexity and emotion that can surround a care leaver’s life, and inspire both care leavers and wider society to recognise this, but not allow it to limit their ambitions in life! We recognise of course there is much more to this subject, this is just the start of a much wider discourse which social and political commentary will undoubtedly play a part.
If you decide to use the film, could I please ask you to fill in the accompanying data form to the best of your ability. We are trying to track how widely the message is spread and to reach at least 2,000 people in this next week and a half. If you are sharing on social media could I ask you to use the hashtags: #HiddenFaces and #NCLW17 and include our Twitter handle @BVTNews This will help enormously with the data collection.