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MP discovers what it’s like to walk in the shoes of a care leaver

Young people supported by Barnardo’s have been sharing powerful stories of being in care with Simon Lightwood MP for Wakefield - with the help of some unusual footwear.

They have recorded their life stories and decorated pairs of white gym shoes to reflect their experiences in a project aimed at raising awareness of the hurdles care leavers can face.

A group of care experienced young people supported by Barnardo’s took some of their shoes and life histories to Westminster on Tuesday September 6th where they staged a special exhibition for MPs, “Walk a Day in Our Shoes: Not One Size Fits All!”

There are currently around 80,000 children in care in England. Most children who enter care do so because they are at risk of abuse or neglect at home, but it can impact them throughout their life.

Research shows that 41% of care experienced 19 to 21-year-olds are not in education, employment or training (NEET). Nearly half have a mental health issue and it is estimated that 25% of homeless people have been in care at some point in their lives.

The aim of the shoes project is to help MPs and the public understand that every young person leaving care is unique, each on a journey shaped by their experiences good and bad.

The young people’s Westminster visit comes at a crucial time for reform of the children’s social care system as the Government develops its Implementation Plan following the publication of Josh MacAlister’s Independent Review of Children’s Social Care.

Barnardo’s CEO Lynn Perry, MBE said: “Barnardo’s is committed to ensuring the voices of care experienced young people are heard by those with the power to change their lives for the better.

“We are incredibly grateful to Simon Lightwood for taking the time to listen to young people. We urge them to champion these issues in Parliament and join us in calling on Liz Truss, our new Prime Minister, and the Secretary of State for Education to take urgent action to improve care and support for families and young people most in need of help.”

Simon Lightwood said: “I am very grateful to the young people who came to Parliament today for sharing their unique lived experiences of the care system. It is vital to hear such voices during the coming months as the Government seeks to respond to the Care Review.

“I would be grateful for any care experienced young people in Wakefield to contact me and share their own experiences, so that I can ensure that these are fed back to Government to influence change.”

The number of children in care could rise to 95,000 by 2025, up from 69,000 in 2015: a 36% increase. This could mean councils' spending on children in care rising from £3.8bn in 2015 to £7.4bn in 2025. As a proportion of their children and family budgets, spending on children in care could rise to 59% of their total by the middle of the decade, up from 42% in 2015. In the Wakefield constituency, the number of children and young people in care have increased from 69 in 2015 to 85 in 2021.


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