CARE EXPERIENCED CONFERENCE 2019 TEAM

Antony Corrigan

Hi everyone, we're really happy to see you here! My name is Antony and I am 34 years old.

 

I spent the majority of my childhood in care- living in a number of both foster and residential placements, with some being better than others. I didn't always find it easy though, and at times, you could say, I went off the rails a little bit. I guess, I was missing that stability that a family and a stable home and offer. At sixteen, I began to live independently and I found it really hard at first but eventually, I got past it.

 

Some years later, I went to university but dropped out. I felt I was learning life as I went along and still needed some guidance before I could try again. I always knew that I would try again though at some point. Undeterred, I waited over ten years and tried again at university. I recently graduated with a psychology degree and have continued my studies further. Ideally, I hope to use my studies to help me to work in the Criminal Justice System to try to prevent our young and vulnerable kids in the care system, like I once was, from going down the wrong path.

 

I believe that every young person has the potential, irrespective of circumstances, to be everything and anything they want to be. If nothing else, I hope the conference will show you that there are SOOO many like-minded people who have been through similar experiences and who want to help others through theirs. It's a chance for people of all ages and backgrounds to come together to build a strong network of care experienced people, promote empowerment and to make friends.


I wanted to be involved with the 'Care Experience Conference - Past, Present & Future' because I believe it is important to give those with care experience a platform to use their voices for the greater good of our future generations of looked after children and those leaving care. It is also a brilliant way of connecting people from all stages of their care journey. I feel that it is only right that to ensure services are fit for purpose, there needs to be input from the people those services are designed to help and protect. I acknowledge that these services don't always get it right and that's why it is imperative and more important than ever to collectively change them for the better.

I look forward to seeing you all in April next year at the Conference.

Take care, Ant

Sarah Wolfe

Hello everyone! My name is Sarah.

 

I'm from down south originally but I've moved around more times... than I care to remember. For the past few years I've lived in sunny Liverpool with my husband. I got involved with #careexpconf through Twitter, having met Ian and other supporters via the platform. The Care Experienced Conference is hugely important to me as an example of community-led empowerment and collaboration for social change. As someone working in services, I'm fed up of events where the communities being talked about are excluded from the conversation or invited in a tokenistic fashion. The care experienced community has a voice and can speak for itself!

 

The majority of people who have brought #careexpconf to fruition are care experienced and it's been my absolute pleasure to join them. As a group of volunteers we've had no government funding and in the beginning we had very little clue, but we've been powered along by enthusiasm, hope, the generosity of others - and biscuits!

 

I'm a clinical psychologist working in children's social care. Alongside offering consultation, training and therapy for trauma, a big but unofficial part of my job is advocacy and challenging the system of care - in part because my role is a privileged one and I see it as my ethical and moral duty to speak up and help marginalised voices be heard. I probably don't always succeed in the way I'd like, but I'll be damned if I ever stop trying!

 

My role in #careexpconf has been to think about and develop the pastoral aspects of the conference alongside team members Antony, Jamie and Jackie. Our priority is to make the conference experience as safe and comfortable as possible for all attendees. We recognise coming together and opening up conversations about the care experience can prompt a mix of feelings. This is inevitable and part of the reality that we wish to capture and convey to the wider world, but we hope to be alongside attendees and help make it manageable, and ultimately worthwhile, in a range of ways. Thanks to those members of the community who have shared their thoughts and ideas about this.

 

For those of you who will be visiting the city for the first time, Liverpool has a lot to offer, it is a safe and friendly place and I hope you enjoy your time here. I'm really excited about this event and I can't wait to welcome you in April. In solidarity, Sarah

Denise Smalley

Hello, I’m Denise (Aka Dee).

 

I have been working in social care for over twenty years; initially I began supporting adults with learning and physical difficulties at home and in the community then supporting older adults at home and in rehabilitation residential care. From this I went on to join a social work team as a family support worker with children and families. My role was to offer practical and emotional support to families helping to keep them together safely, to avoid family breakdown. These experiences led me back to social work training, I had begun a degree course previously but my father died unexpectedly which changed the course of my life for a few years.

 

After qualifying as a social worker in 2004, I continued to work with children and families, and with young people in care. Quickly I became more aware of the vital role well trained and well supported foster carers play in ensuring caring, stable homes for children in care, and in maintaining and supporting relationships with birth family members. This led me to move into a fostering team in 2007, becoming a supervising social worker. I stayed in this role for ten years helping to recruit, train and support foster carers and family members looking after children. With growing awareness of the unmet mental health and emotional needs of the young people (and adults) I was supporting, I began learning more about the impact of trauma and ways of helping and supporting carers’ development. I helped to deliver training to carers alongside professionals from the local Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service. Involvement in this led me to study a BSc (Hons) in Health and social Care Practice (Child and Adolescent Mental Health), from which I graduated in 2014. I was working alongside studying my degree (a busy few years!) 

 

In 2016 I began working with adults affected by adoption and permanency, supporting adults adopted as children in a variety of situations; accessing files, discussing the impact of adoption and helping with searches and reunions with family members separated through adoption and foster care. My role also includes supporting birth and first family members following the court-ordered removal and loss of a child to adoption.

 

I support The Care Experienced Conference as a long overdue opportunity for care experienced people of all ages to come together to discuss their pasts, present and future; to celebrate achievements and to help create improvements in support. I am involved in a few areas of the conference and very happy to help where I can. It’s a privilege to be involved.

 

Thanks for reading. Dee

Cat Hugman

Hi, my name is Cat Hugman. I got involved with the Care-Experienced Conference by connecting with the group through social media.

 

I am honoured and humbled to be able to play a part in making the conference happen and to provide an opportunity for people of all ages with experience of care to to come together. For years care-leavers have had very little voice and I believe, despite our varied life experiences, that coming together is a massive opportunity to develop our community and showcase the range of expertise and talents of each and every one of us.

 

I hope the Care-Experienced Conference can positively effect change, whether that is about improving service provision, developing campaigns or leading to more research. What really excites me about the conference is how its developed from the grassroots- so often things have been done for us. This conference is different as it is led, developed and supported by people of all ages with care-experience and their allies.

 

I currently live in a very pretty town in Northumberland in a home I share with my two dogs and partner. I grew up in lots of different places in the UK and Zimbabwe as my dad’s job made sure we moved every three years- so I’m a bit nomadic. Life at home was never easy as my mum wasn’t very well, that all came to a head when I was a teenager and just couldn’t cope with the chaos everyday. For me ‘care’ wasn’t very caring and it was just a roof over my head, so I left foster care happily at 16, moved into supported lodgings for 18 months before moving into a wee council flat. I had severe mental health difficulties as a result of the trauma, and it took me years to get back to functioning well.

 

After doing access courses I managed to secure a place at a Northumbria University on their sociology programme, the ideas, theories and approaches transformed the way I saw the world. Thanks to very supportive tutors I went on to do my Masters in Social Research and then secured funding to do a PhD. This was such an opportunity and not something I’d ever really thought of pursing. Since then I’ve gone onto teach and research at Universities in the North East, and now I’m teaching on the social work programme at the University of Cumbria.

 

I’m not just a person with care–experienced, I’m also a roller skater, crafter, dog carer, passionate lecturer, researcher, social justice purser, comic book reader, adventurer and guitar player (OK that last one is debatable!) 

 

Read Cat's research

Jamie Crabb

Hello, #careexperienced community! I'm Jamie. It amazing to connect with you here on our journey towards @careexpconf. 

 

I'm care experienced. I was placed in foster care at one week old. There were aspects of my care experienced that were positive. These included being placed with one foster family throughout my life alongside one of my siblings, and the relationships I developed with members of my foster family that continue today. There were aspects of my care experience with which I struggle. My birth mother had experienced significant developmental and systemic trauma that impacted her mental health. She was poorly supported by social and mental health services experiencing prejudice and stigma when what she needed was genuine relationships and love. Furthermore, social services failed to support my mother, my siblings and I in developing and maintaining kinship relationships. I deeply regret this as I never had the opportunity to meet her or my brother.

 

I learnt about the Care Experienced Conference having met Ian Dickson and other members of the organising team through Twitter. I was inspired by the grassroots energy in challenging the system that leaves the voices of care experienced people out in decision making, and the aims of the conference to ensure care experienced people of all ages are forefront participants in a full review of the care system.

 

From the start of my career I have worked in roles that have focused upon enabling growth, change, and self-empowerment for individuals and communities. I studied theatre in educational, community or therapeutic contexts. This led me to work in schools and community settings supporting young people experiencing social and emotional challenges. I worked in higher education as a lecturer/tutor in applied theatre and subsequently in disability support which led me to train as an counsellor. In my training and personal therapy, I was supported to speak about my care experience for the first time recognising my lived experience and empathy enabled me to support others who have experienced trauma.

 

I've previously worked as a counsellor for my local Mind, a University, a GP Medical Practice Counselling Service and the charity Crisis offering free and low-cost counselling and groups to individuals who would otherwise struggle to access NHS mental health services. A couple of years ago I co-edited a book called Study Skills for Students with Dyslexia (Support for Specific Learning Differences).

 

As well as working as a counsellor in my private practice I am writing my MA Psychotherapy thesis on the experience of foster care, and it's implications for counselling and psychotherapy. I am part of the Aashna Counselling and Psychotherapy team organising training considering issues of diversity in therapeutic practice. In time I hope to create a space for a local care experienced group and raise awareness of care experience in the counselling and psychotherapy community. In my spare time I enjoy spending time with my partner and cat, reading, theatre, yoga, cooking and growing veggies.

 

It's been a real privilege to work alongside the brilliant and inspiring Care Experienced Conference team. I'm looking forward to meeting you on our journey for change at the Care Experienced Conference next year. Jamie @jamie_crabb

P Yusuf (McCormack)

Hi, I’m P Yusuf (McCormack).

 

I 'lived' the ‘care system’ from birth to aged 18, during the 60’s & 70’s, in religious institutions, where ‘care’ didn’t seem to be a feature for children like me! Discipline, violence & abuse being the order of the day!Ironically, this type of childhood shaped me and equipped me with certain ‘life skills’, (unintentional & certainly not part of their plan!) allowing me to have a crack at life. I was encouraged to leave or as I saw it, politely shown the door in 1980!

 

So, what have I been up to since I left the system? Well, busy! I worked in the civil service for various departments and positions until 2015 when I ‘risked’ the opportunity to leave and embark on something different and closer to my heart. I’m now described as an ‘artist’ (I write and paint) other people’s labels for me. I just enjoy what I do and hope that it allows others a view or insight into the experiences I and others faced and lived with as children.....warts and all!

 

I've been busy as a dad, enjoying or making it up as I go along raising 5 children. Since 2013 we have been caring for children who become part of our family through fostering. It has been this current experience coupled with my ‘artistic’ work that has led me to become involved with the Care-Experienced Conference.

 

As a child of the ‘state’, I am acutely aware that my voice was never heard. 'I am the expert on me' as others are experts too, yet these ‘experts’ experiences very rarely get aired or heard, let alone acted upon or given the opportunity to influence changes that may contribute positively for those who are labeled ‘looked after children!

 

“We are not only the 'negative' statistics that fuel media & societies beliefs, that my friend is the result of system failures! We are the majority who have successfully turned the expected statistics on their head, shook them and got on with life, yet rarely get spoken about or heard'”

 

Even today, I recognise that the children who live with me still have very little by way of voice and I often question ‘have things really changed that much? This extends to the voices of care givers, those professionals and people who provide care, which can often feel compromised in bureaucratic red tape, or hoops, to jump through. So very little is heard or listened to without it feeling like some sort of tokenism, resulting in very little joined up change!

 

For me, the Care-Experienced Conference provides an opportunity for the ‘care experienced’ to bring and showcase their wealth of knowledge, their lived and felt experiences, their heritage, their talents, as a joined up ‘community’ to inform and collaborate on an equal footing and partnership, with those who can and want to influence change, so that the lessons of the past can support the future for tomorrow's generation.

 

I am excited by possibilities and look forward to working with you and being part of something that can ‘be’ the difference

Alison O'Sullivan

I began my career as a social worker assistant in inner-city Derby in 1973, trained at Bradford University qualifying in 1978 and then worked in Bradford for many years.

I became director of social services for Bradford, director for children and young people and director for adults in Kirklees. I retired in April 2016.​​​Alison was active in the Association of Directors of Children's Services (ADCS) from its inception and was elected vice president in 2014, becoming president from April 2015. This was a huge privilege and enabled her to engage in national policy shaping and give advice on behalf of directors of children's services to government departments and others. I have a long track record of engagement in national policy work from the Marmot Review in 2008 to Future in Mind in 2016.

 

Following retirement I have taken a number of roles including: co-chair of the Expert Working Group for improving mental health support for children in care, advisory board member for the Children’s Commissioner and from January 2019 Chair of the board of trustees for the National Children’s Bureau, a leading children’s charity.

 

I have acted as a champion for children at a local and national level with particular emphasis on empowering children to directly influence policy and practice. I pressed for better support for care leavers and mental health of young people as specific issues during her Presidential year.

 

Giving behind the scenes support and encouragement to help with the Care Experienced Conference is a continuation of my passion for getting the voice of children who have been in care heard and helping them to make a difference!

Elaine Pearson-Scott

I am honoured to be part of the steering group; the time is long overdue for our services to meet the needs of all our looked after children and care leavers.

 

I will be 30 years SW qualified next year and have seen a lot of progress. However, it hurts me to the core how things that we shouted about decades ago can still be an issue now. If it isn’t good enough for our child, it is not good enough for a child in care over used now but still true.

 

Elaine currently provides external supervision, regulation 44, complaints management and Agency Decision Maker services as a freelance. In addition, she is a Founder CEO of the Regulation 44 association. Elaine also started and registered a respite fostering service while Executive Director at PPC providing a specialist to children and families affected by HIV.

 

She is a successful fundraiser with experience of securing income through a variety of source and has had considerable success in the developing and participating in strategic partnerships. Elaine has, wworked closely with trustees to deliver strategic goals and developed partnerships with public, private and voluntary sector colleagues. Elaine is a trustee within the sector. As well as contributing to local and national policy developments, Elaine has spoken at and chaired conferences.

 

An accomplished Leader, who has led large and small teams of staff and volunteers. Elaine has been recognised for her individual contribution to the sector.

 

A qualified registered social worker with child protection and CIN experience at practitioner, specialist child protection officer, approved social worker, practice management and senior management levels in the local authority and voluntary sector. Delivered contracted services across CYP, Early Years, Fostering and Residential services, Family Support, Domestic Abuse, sexual exploitation, Specialist HIV, homelessness and runaways.

Ian Dickson

I am Ian Dickson. I am care experienced, having spent 16 years in care in the 1950's and 1960's. I experienced good and bad residential and foster care, and spent some time as homeless when discharged from care in 1968. I came into social work in 1973 and retired in 2010, having spent the years in between in a variety of social work and management roles, including social worker, residential service manager,and inspector. I focused mainly on working with adolescent young people in and leaving care, and young people in custody.

 

I have campaigned to challenge the injustices and improve the quality of care we offer children in state care and the support we offer to them once they leave care pretty much all of my adult life. I see the conference for care experienced people of all ages as a massive step in gaining a voice for care experienced people in determining the care that they receive during and after care as equal partners with the professionals who make the decisions. Looking forward to finally retiring immediately after the conference next April!

Rosie Canning

Hello! My name is Rosie Canning.

 

I was born in the fiction section of a Muswell Hill Library and spent the first 16 years of my life in the care system in North London. I am a campaigner for care leavers and helped set up the Every Child Leaving Care Matters campaign. I’m also the co-coordinator for the Your Life Your Story event that happens as part of #CareExperienceWeek.

 

As Creative Director of Greenacre Writers I run writing groups, workshops and festivals. I’m doing a PhD in Creative Writing at the University of Southampton. The focus of my research is the representations of care experience in fiction. The creative piece will explore my own experiences of leaving care as well as considering the positive aspect that reading fiction has had on my life.

 

I’m very excited to be involved in co-organising the art exhibition for the Care Experienced Conference - the first of its kind. I believe in the healing power of art in all its forms to be a transformational tool that can help those with trauma-based lives.

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