To celebrate Care Day 2021 on Friday 19th February, the 5 Nations 1 Voice Collective hosted a virtual question and answer session which was attended by Corrine McGinty, NYAS Income Generation Officer England.

Here Corrine shares here insights and learnings from the session:

A fantastic panel of care experienced young people put questions, gathered from the wider care experienced community, to the children’s commissioners and ombudsman from each nation of England, Wales, Northern Ireland, Republic of Ireland and Scotland.

The session was hosted by Taylor Walters, representing Voices from Care Cymru, who managed the session with ease, introducing panel members and directing questions to each. Answering the questions was Koulla Yiasouma (N. Ireland), Niall Muldoon (Republic of Ireland), Bruce Adamson (Scotland), Martin Lennon (appearing in place of Anne Longfield for England) and Sally Holland, who appeared by pre-recorded interview due to a scheduling conflict.

Questions ranged from digital inclusion and educational attainment to mental health support and the importance of consistent, caring relationships. The commissioners answered each question with frankness about where improvements need to be made; their passion and appetite to deliver these changes clear throughout.

Panel member Thomas Morgan, who presents EPIC’s ‘The Care Experience Podcast,’ highlighted the vital role of youth workers: “Youth projects were fundamental for my growth. Youth workers are some of the only people that young people can feel vulnerable with.” He called for more support for these vital organisations, with particular emphasis on training support so that youth workers are able to connect those who are care experienced with resources and aftercare.

The session ended with two incredibly important questions put to the commissioners: what have they learned from listening to and engaging with care experienced people, and what does care mean to them?

Martin Lennon took the floor first to discuss that something he has learned from the care experienced community is how care experienced young people have to fight for small and basic things, such as being allowed to go for a sleepover like any other child because the a CRB check is needed first, or missing out on a school trip as a result of the bureaucracy around the permission slip. This resonated with host Taylor Walters, who commented that “things like that just remind you that you’re a kid in care.”

Koulla Yiasouma followed by saying that when she thinks of what care means, she thinks about what she wants for all children in care. “I think of love, I think of stability and I think of safety and a warm fuzzy feeling. That’s what I want for every single child in care.”

This sentiment was echoed by Niall Muldoon, who also noted the importance of equality for all children and Bruce Adamson commented, “Every child should grow up in a family environment of happiness and love and understanding.”

The event closed with everyone raising their hands with messages of support for #CareDay21 written across their palms.

NYAS would like to thank all who took part in the event, the organisers and supporting organisations including Voices from Care Cymru, Become, Who Cares? Scotland, EPIC and Voypic for an insightful morning.