For our seventeenth podcast, the Voice of the Child speaks with actor and youth ambassador Chris Wild about his experience of the care system as a child.
Chris, who has written a book about his experience, entitled “Damaged”, shares new details about the book, why he champions public figures like footballer Marcus Rashford, and his next project with BBC Newsnight which looks at how children inside Britain’s care system have coped during the Coronavirus pandemic.
Chris also discusses the phenomenon of “social abuse” inside the care system, and why children in care are often exposed to this kind of sanctioned abuse within the sector.
You can listen to the podcast here.
Chris’s book is available on Amazon for £2.99 (Kindle) and £6.55 (paperback).
Many thanks to Chris for taking part in our Voice of the Child series.
A transcript for this podcast is added below. It can also be accessed on the PodScribe platform.
Hi and welcome to the voice of the child. We often hear about children in the news, whether it’s a story telling us about migrant children being kept in cages at the US-Mexico border or a viral campaign to ensure children living in extreme poverty can have access to school meals vouchers during the holidays. But we very rarely get to hear how children themselves feel about events that have affected them directly. This is particularly true for children who have grown up inside the UK’s care system, like my guest, Chris Wild, who has written a book about his life and the lives of his friends inside Britain’s care homes.
And the stories are heartbreaking. Chris, it’s lovely to have you on the program, your book damage describes your childhood in painful detail, how you ended up entering the care system, and what happened to you once you were there. What was the process of writing that book like for you?
2 (1m 3s):
Yeah, it was to be honest with you. When I first started writing it, I, I, I, it was written from a subconscious point of view. I didn’t know what I was writing. I didn’t know how I was going to write it, but as I started to put pen to paper, things started to come back to me, memories from a child, emotional memories, as you know, things, which I, I thought I’d forgotten about. So all these things started to come back to me surface, and then I started to put the pieces together.
2 (1m 35s):
And that’s how the book developed to be honest with you. I didn’t know what it was going to be at first. I didn’t know why I was writing the book. I didn’t know. It was a time in my life where there was a void. I had some complications at home. I didn’t want to go to see a therapist. I’ve done all that as a young person and it didn’t work for me. So I started to write. And as soon as I started to write and the book started to develop things, just start to evolve and everything started to make sense. Things I’d blocked out for many years.
2 (2m 5s):
I had kind of ignored that part of my life, I’d kind of shut it off completely. I just didn’t want to go there anymore. And it was like a psychological effect to me, it felt like a dream. It felt like it was a reality that didn’t exist. And even when I started to write, I had this kind of doubt in my mind, that while I was writing it was just a dream. But then as we start to investigate and go back over it, it hurt me, but it was real. And that’s, yeah, that’s how the book started.
1 (2m 34s):
There are a lot of very traumatic things that happen to you and to people that you know in the care system growing up. Do you feel that that blocking out was a defense mechanism for you in order to try to cope with what had happened?
2 (2m 48s):
Yeah. I mean, even now, you know, reading and, and meeting, you know, children’s psychologist and, and having, you know, a group of people around me who you use that, you know, and study that professionally for a living. Yeah. It’s a defense mechanism as such. I mean, you know, the brain and trauma works in so many strange and mysterious ways. I think for me it was, it was a defense mechanism, but also it was, it was something I also consciously blocked out.
2 (3m 23s):
So people took consciously block it out. And just to elaborate on that, it’s, it’s like, I, you know, I, I think I chose not to be that person. I didn’t want people to feel sorry for me. I didn’t want that part of my life to have happened. It was, you know, like I said, it was, it was, it was just some kind of, for me, it was just like a dream, a dream of consciousness and just didn’t want to know about it. And, you know, for the, for the last 20 years of my life, he was, it was something, again, I just didn’t want to have any connection to it whatsoever.
2 (3m 56s):
The past was the past for me. And that’s how I used to approach it. But then things happen in life. You grow up, I guess, and you start to come to terms with things and that’s when you start to, to unlock and take away that wall and realize, Oh yeah, you have a problem here. You, you are, you have been blocking this out for a reason. And that makes sense. And then all the answers start to surface. And that’s for me, the psychological process about that develops.
1 (4m 22s):
So your father passed away when you were just 11 and you find yourself in care in just one year, but how did you actually enter the care system? What was that process for you?
2 (4m 34s):
So that happened kind of really quickly when, when my dad died, it was, it was so sudden, and I didn’t really have any grieving process. I kind of rebelled. It was, it was so quick, but my mom moved on quick as well. She met somebody. She was only very young herself, but I gravitated towards other kids like me, or kind of fragmented young people at the time that there weren’t a lot of those young people, although their were, we just, obviously we didn’t know about them.
2 (5m 6s):
And I fragmented too. You know, I, I became fragmented myself and I gravitated towards these people. And I just started to trying to get attention. I guess that’s what you would call it. Breaking windows, shoplifting, just doing anything to get attention. I just wanted attention. I wanted to hurt my mom. If I’m honest with you. I, I don’t think I mentioned that in any part of the book, but that, that was the process I wanted to hurt my mom. I wanted to say, look, I’m so hurt here and you don’t see this, but I want to embarrass you. I want to hurt you.
2 (5m 37s):
And it escalated so much out of control, but obviously social services couldn’t ignore it anymore. I was in, I was in court three times a week. It was getting to that stage where there was conversations in the courtroom with solicitors saying, you know, I think the next stage for you was going to be a security unit because that’s, that’s where it was heading. So a children’s home was the first point of call and was the first option, you know, to see if that would work, to see if that gave myself, my mom, my family, my peers, some respite.
2 (6m 10s):
And that’s how it happened. It happened really quick within that space. But for me, it was just trivial, trivial things, breaking windows shoplifting, but that’s how it escalated. And that’s how I became known to local local authorities. Yeah. And I think I remember being in court and my mom just said, I can’t take him anymore. He can’t come back to the house.
2 (6m 41s):
And then the local magistrate at the time just said, well, you know, we’re gonna, we’re gonna, we could send him to a care home and see if that gives you respite. And that’s just how it happened. It was so quick, again, looking back. It was like a dream, you know, you just don’t think that part of my life is real, but it’s as real as real can be, I guess.
1 (7m 5s):
So, as you mentioned, you don’t say in the book that you were angry with your mother, but what you do do is detail the very difficult relationship that she subsequently found herself in with her new partner, who was your brother’s foster brother, your sorry, your father’s foster brother. And, and that, by all accounts, from what you say in the book was a very domestically abusive relationship and a relationship, which you were impacted by as well. And one of the things that I felt as I was reading the book and reading this particular excerpt from the book, was that a lot of the things that galvanized your stay within the care system or you entering the care system was this very volatile relationship, which ended up dominating your mother and making her unavailable to you, which in turn perhaps might have caused your anger.
1 (7m 53s):
Is that something that you perceive yourself from your own experience?
3 (7m 57s):
Yeah, I mean, absolutely. I mean, you know, it was the hatred I had for my mother. It was visceral at that time, you know,
2 (8m 6s):
What, what I witnessed to be honest,
3 (8m 9s):
What I could never understand and something that I still can’t comprehend as, as an adult, as a father and a husband. And although me, my mom got on very well, it’s just how my mom could allow that to happen, how she could, she could get involved with such a man for me, such an evil man who was completely different to my dad who was kind and gentle, and to put us through that and let him dominate her in a way that it had, you know, a, a long lasting effect on, on my childhood.
3 (8m 39s):
It, it took my childhood away. You know, I had the hatred I had for my mother was, it was, it was fueled by, I guess, love as well. I, you know, I loved her so much but I wanted to hate her because I blamed, I wanted blame her for my dad dying. I wanted, you know, I wanted her to be responsible for it. And that’s just how I kind of vented that frustration at the time.
1 (9m 4s):
You’re also very forgiving in the book. And you, you mitigate your mother’s actions by explaining that she was probably very vulnerable when she made that particular choice, the choice to enter into that relationship. And that perhaps that was why she found herself in a domestically abusive relationship. What do you think about that relationship, looking back now in terms of how it affected you?
3 (9m 28s):
Yeah. I mean, my biggest fear, my biggest fear has always been that I was becoming him. I wasn’t becoming my father. I wasn’t becoming a good person. I was becoming a paranoid jealous man. So that, that, that relationship with my mom and this man had in particular had a, you know, a massive effect on me. You know, he was violent. I had to, you know, I had to witness things, you know, I’d gone from having a father who was kind, we’d play football together.
3 (9m 58s):
He’d be loving. It’d be very, you know, he was, he was, he was an old school man where he would buy flowers for my mom every Friday and take her on dates every Friday or Saturday. I think that transition into somebody who just would hit her, would beat her, and now obviously looking back at that point in my life, you know, I, it’s difficult to explain and to articulate because it’s, so it’s such an, you know, an emotional memory for me but I don’t, you know, I don’t blame my mom anymore for that.
3 (10m 29s):
It wasn’t her fault. She was gaslighted. She was groomed as well. She was, she was, she was, she was kind of forced into that relationship. I don’t think she wanted it. She was, she was broken at the time. But seeing that and witnessing all those, you know, domestically violent scenes, what I did as a child, of course, it had an effect on me. It’s something which is always at the forefront of my mind. I’d never want to be that person. And it’s, you know, for many years of my life, when I first met my wife, I was always scared I was going to become that person.
1 (11m 1s):
So much of a child’s life is emotions-based. And in your book, you explain that you felt a lot of different emotions at various different stages of your childhood and your experience in care. And you’ve obviously just explained a range of emotions that you felt prior to entering care within your family unit. What emotions do you associate most with your time in care?
3 (11m 23s):
But you know, back then when I went into a care home, I wasn’t sad that I went into the care home. I was happy. It was, it was, it was kind of a memory for me, an emotion that was euphoric because I got away from something so violent, something so, so abusive and evil that going into a care home for me was my escapism. I wasn’t witnessing my mom being beaten more. I wasn’t witnessing, you know, her crying and screaming late at night. I wasn’t being intoxicated.
3 (11m 57s):
So going into that environment at first, for me, that was a, it was a happy, it was at first a happy memory. That’s how I recall the early stages of that process. It was, it was happy. It was, it was exciting. It was like, you know, all the other boys who I knew from the streets were all there. It was, you know, we had, there was nobody to tell us anything different. Nobody tell us what to do. We could do whatever we wanted to do. So that was the first initial feelings,and memory were sort of, you know, those relating to escapism.
1 (12m 31s):
And then as time went on, how did you feel about the care system? What emotions did it incite in you?
3 (12m 37s):
Yeah, it was a bit of a roller coaster. Cause at first, like, you know, everybody was really kind of generous and, you know, nice. And then you, you, you’ve got that flexibility to do what you want, but that soon changed. And you know, those, those emotions of, you know, those happy memories and those emotions soon kind of turned into fear, fear on different levels, fear of uncertainty, fear of the unpredictable. That’s how we changed. And it changed dramatically, as I said, in the book.
3 (13m 8s):
But my first encounter with that was when I was making toast and I didn’t butter my toast properly. And I, I back chatted to the, to the, the man who was running the house at the time, the master of the house. And he smacked me around a year. And that for me was, Oh, this, this is not a happy place. This is not fun anymore. There’s something serious here. And I could sense that kind of straight away. And that’s how you know, that kind of, it just changed the feelings of, of my experience straight away that day.
3 (13m 41s):
And from that day forth, then the rest of the time and in care, was filled with unpredictable fear. You just didn’t know what to expect day to day and the smell too, you know, for me, it always smelled like formaldehyde, like you were walking in the morgue because that’s how the atmosphere was. And it, it did have an effect on, you know, your, your emotions, and everybody in that place knew what was happening, everybody in that place was sad. Everybody in that place was scared.
3 (14m 13s):
And when I talk about fear, it wasn’t, you know, fear, fear, doesn’t show itself with people being erratic. It shows itself in silence. And that’s a different kind of fear, and I knew there was something sinister happening and that’s basically how it ended up. And that’s how it carried on.
1 (14m 38s):
In the book. You obviously give your friends names and people that you come across, who are your peers, but there are various characters who are, are not given names, but they are given a nicknames like The Boss, for example, who was the head of the care home at the time and The Bear who was his right hand woman helping with the care home. Was there a conscious choice for you to give these individuals names?
3 (15m 1s):
When we sat down with the publishers and their legal team, and we were talking about this, because legally I could, I could have mentioned their names, there was no problem naming them as they’d been convicted of their crimes. So it’s not like I would have been liable for saying things, which weren’t true. It was, I just didn’t want them in my book, it was a conscious choice. I didn’t want to give him a title. I wanted to call it Mr. Boss, and The Bear. I didn’t want him in the book. I didn’t want their names in the book for that reason. I just didn’t want to give them any kind of time or space in my life as they weren’t worthy of their names.
3 (15m 40s):
We mentioned that that was the whole conscious reason behind giving them that, that, you know, Mr. B and, and, and The Bear cause that’s how, when you’re a kid as well, you know, you, you, you relate people to certain things in your life, don’t you? And I always said Mr. B like Mr. Boss, the boss, man, Mr. Big. That’s how he came across. So that’s, you know, the nickname, we all gave him to be honest, when we, when we were young.
1 (16m 3s):
As a reader, it definitely felt as if they were given those names because they were inciting a certain type of emotion. And you, you mentioned feeling fear. The idea of a boss is a very dominant concept as, as is a bear, which is both towering, overbearing, and also quite frightening. And when you’re reading the book, you do get a sense that these individuals were not just frightening, but they were dangerous as well. And you mentioned in your book that there were girls as young as eight, that were being raped by carers inside the care home. And they were learning to stop feeling in order to survive, which is hugely detrimental to development.
1 (16m 37s):
Do you think the system as a whole invites children to stop feeling, and should professionals be looking at making changes through lenses like these?
2 (16m 46s):
Yeah. Once you go into the care setting, you know, people become imperturbable their, their, their, their feelings just disappear. They evaporate. A lot of it’s a defense mechanism, as you’ve said before, for that reason, you know, it’s, I guess it’s all to do with the atmosphere as well. They’re not happy places. The thing about the children’s home, they call them homes and then they’re not homes or their homes. You know, everybody refers well, depending on what kind of home you came from. But my or my, my, my initial home was a good place.
2 (17m 16s):
It was a happy place. So, you know, going into the care setting, it, it subconsciously and automatically demoralizes you, and it takes away any kind of hope and happiness you have in your body. And that’s how, even today it’s still demoralizing. The atmosphere is dull. It’s dark, it’s depressing. And you know, there is nothing joyous about a care home. There’s nothing homely about a care home. That’s one of the problems we have today. Yeah.
1 (17m 45s):
As well as describing your own experience of care, you also describe the experiences of several people in the care home as well, several young girls and boys, and there are particular stories which are really concerning. One of them is Susanna’s story. Tell us a little bit about Susanna and what happened to her.
2 (18m 4s):
Yeah, I mean, Susanna she’s when, when, when I was writing about her, you know, her story, she’s always been with me in my, in my heart and my soul from day one, her, you know, she, she just was born into an evil world. She was born into a world where there was never, ever going to be any chances or opportunities for her. She was born into a world without love. She was born into a world, without any compassion or care, even meeting her, you know, I gravitated towards her because although she was born into this dark void, she still, she had something special about her.
2 (18m 42s):
It was quite special. And she was, she was a very nice girl. She was very caring, loving, which she never had the opportunity to show people, you know, who she really was. Her fate was always going to be negative, I guess, because of, of the way she she’d been brought into this world, it’s difficult to talk about because, you know, I still feel very, very passionate about who she was and what happened to her. And I always feel now as an adult, maybe I could have saved her, I guess.
2 (19m 13s):
I don’t know, difficult.
1 (19m 15s):
The other troubling aspects too, to her story also involve references that you make in your book to drug tests and medical experiments that she underwent after attacking a key worker who had routinely raped her for a considerable period of time. She was then sent into a secure unit and she was accused of being crazy. This particular theme is concerning because we’ve seen other survivors of the care system talk about these kinds of experiments. For example, within homes like Kendall house.
1 (19m 46s):
Do you think that this was a particularly common phenomenon within care homes during that period? And we’re talking, I think the nineties at this point.
3 (19m 56s):
Yeah. I mean, even though after Damage came out, I had, I was inundated with messages from young girls, like Suzanne who, who had their own stories, very similar ones. I’d never known anything about, especially in Halifax, everywhere. They’d been, you know, they’d been drugged up, they’d woken up in different different parts of the country. Some, you know, a lot of girls went to bed and Halifax and woke up in Wales cause they’d been drugged up. And then obviously when they spoke against the system, they were automatically deemed as liars. And you know, and it was that dichotomy.
3 (20m 27s):
It was, it was, it was very common then because they could get away with it. You know, it’s different generations, but it’s still, you know, you, you wouldn’t get away with it now, but it must still be going on, but back then the, the system was so polluted that anything was possible. And that was common practice. That’s how it was, you know, and that kind of, when I started getting the messages from people, I was, I just couldn’t believe it. I just thought I’ve started something here.
3 (20m 59s):
I’ve got a huge responsibility to follow this up because you know, I had people contacting me who were in their fifties and had never, ever spoken about their experience, which is very similar to Susanna and one woman told me, I’m married with three kids, my husband doesn’t know about it, but I’m telling you now, because this has to stop. It happened to me. But then I know it’s happened to hundreds of my friends and that, you know, that’s how it was then it was, it was evil on a different level.
1 (21m 25s):
And is that what inspired you to campaign in this area?
3 (21m 30s):
What inspired me to campaign is once I didn’t, like I said, I didn’t know what was going to happen with the book. It didn’t know where it was going to go. To be honest, when I started writing it, it was for me, it wasn’t for anyone else. It was to kind of come to terms with the past, be a better husband, be a better father. I didn’t want to sit with a therapist and go through all them questions again, I’m just going to write, but the writing was therapeutic for me and it, the book developed and as the book developed, the stories developed and as the story developed so did my research and I found as I said at the beginning, all this for me was like a dream, but then it became a nightmare because I found out most of it was real.
3 (22m 7s):
That’s what inspired me to write it and you know, to do the work I do today is because I went back into the care sector as a professional. Now, when I went back into the care sector, I was shocked to see, not much hand changed. And that for me was when I said, right, this is going to happen. I’m writing this book, I’m putting my book out there, whatever happens, happens, but I will, I will voice my opinions. I will be vocal about this. And it’s something which will be a part of my life until the day I exit the world, I guess.
1 (22m 39s):
So you experienced the care system in the nineties and we’re now 2020. In your book, you explain that life on the streets in the nineties felt much safer than the care homes the government had created to protect children like you. Do you feel that that’s still the case for a lot of children in care in 2020, who are looking for a space where they can belong, whether they are protected, where they can feel safe?
2 (23m 3s):
Well, no, because today they’re not protected at all. Because I think even in the nineties, I say, you know, I felt safe on the streets because I feel that that was my survival. That was the things I knew. The care homes weren’t safe, even care homes today. They’re not a safe place because you know, it’s, it’s got to that stage where it’s just sort of dysfunctional on a different level, but you’ve you, unless you’ve seen it on all the different levels, you can’t really understand it or comprehend how this can happen.
2 (23m 37s):
You know, young people now, they are just abandoned. They’re forgotten. You know that’s an expansive question though. You know, people ask me all the time, why is the care system so messed up now? And there’s not a definitive answer for that. It’s just, the system is broken completely. Young people in the care sector are not valued. They’re not valued like kids who are living at home with parents who are going to school, you know, local authorities have a responsibility to, to be the corporate parent and look after the young people, but they don’t have a responsibility which is personal to them.
2 (24m 13s):
So, you know, for young people, you talk about careful places. You can, you know, if you, if you’re a young person, 14, 15 years old, going to a care home, you might be placed with a young person, you know, a sex offender who’s dangerous. So these places, the paradox of that, which I talk about in a book is that, you know, a care home is supposed to keep you safe yet you’re surrounded by danger. And that is the danger. It’s a corporate danger. It’s a dysfunctional danger, which is, is, you know, is being set up to make people fail. I guess.
1 (24m 43s):
Your book does mention a whole host of dangers from what children experience within the care homes, to the language that’s used, to the accommodation that they’re in, to the way they’re treated. One of the things that you also do is you talk a little bit about another girl who was in the care home with you called Claire. And although you never come out and say it, there is this definite feeling in the book whilst you’re reading it, that she was being abused by the chief care home worker. Is that something that did happen or is that just something that, that might have been a, my interpretation of the narrative in the book?
2 (25m 16s):
No, it did happen. I mean, he, he abused most of the young girls in there. If there was 10 young girls in there, he abused nine of them. And that’s, I mean, that’s, that’s how it was. That’s you know, and everybody who’s come forward now. And everybody who was in the care home, there’s been over 300 cases. And because of the book as well, they’ve relaunched investigations, it was called operation Scream back in the day. So they’ve relaunched that and approved the investigation now, because there were people who worked in the home whose names have popped up as well.
2 (25m 50s):
And people have come forward to say that they were abused, too.
1 (25m 53s):
Do you think that that kind of abuse is still going on today within care homes?
2 (25m 58s):
Not it’s, it’s a different kind of abuse. I mean, it does still happen. Don’t get me wrong, more so in the private sector, but not local authority care homes. The abuse, what happens today is called social abuse. It’s negligence. It’s, it’s, you know, it’s abuse where it’s emotional abuse, where, you know, staff members are not allowed to engage with young people. Staff members don’t really care about the young people. It’s just a job for them. Most of them are minimum wage. It’s, it’s not, it’s not, you know, it’s not a career per se, which people want to go that extra mile to do anything extra for these young people.
2 (26m 33s):
So that’s a different kind of abuse that put some people in a different emotional state of mind. It causes so many mental health problems, but as you know, making that comparison for when I was back in the care sector in the nineties, you know, there were no DBS checks. There were no social media, the whole place was rigged. You don’t get that as much nowadays, but again, you know, danger presents itself in different fashions. It’s invisible, it’s online. You know, it’s hard to make that comparison.
2 (27m 3s):
Would I say this care system is safer today? Yes. In many ways, but it’s still not, you know, doing what it’s supposed to do. We’re still not looking after young people. A lot of people are failing. And a lot of people, you know, it is, again, it’s not a home. I keep reiterating this. It’s not a home, is it for many people?
1 (27m 25s):
You’re doing an enormous amount of work as a youth ambassador to raise awareness around child welfare and child protection. And you’re very active on Twitter. And, and I’ve seen you tweet a few things about the recent development with Marcus Rashford, who was campaigning for free school meals and trying to get the government to perform a U-turn, which it eventually did on that, initially saying, no, we won’t be extending the free school meals scheme to children during the summer holidays. What’s your take on that particular campaign and the issues at the heart of, of that phenomenon?
2 (27m 57s):
I think it’s a revolution. I think ir is absolutely amazing, that this, this footballer has taken that stance to do it because you know, so many of us have been fighting for this and, and voicing our opinions for years. And everybody’s just been ignoring and not doing anything about it, but all of a sudden, you know, he’s making his stance and they’re doing something about it. It’s for me, I can’t, I get, I get vexed and frustrated thinking about, that we even have to have this debate. We even have to, it takes somebody like, you know, the footballer Marcus Rashford to, to have to do, you know, use his profile, his platform to get things in motion, you know, what, why, why are we even questioning or debating whether or not to feed children during the Summer holidays for people suffering from disadvantages, it should just be, you know, at the forefront, it should be a priority for our government.
2 (28m 46s):
And I hope that this human continues to help these people suffering from disadvantages, you know, in every way possible. For me, I was. So I was so elated and so excited when, when he’s, when I watched the news of the day and I saw, I fought finally, somebody, somebody, we can look up to, somebody who’s got a voice more powerful than all of ours put together. Somebody who can actually make the government u-turn. And when they finally did, it was amazing for me. I just thought, finally, this is the start of something big to come.
2 (29m 18s):
He’s not going to stop there. And I, and I hope he doesn’t. Yeah. Yeah.
1 (29m 22s):
We also saw a knock on effect on social media, within the child protection sector. There was a lot of response, a lot of engagement with that campaign and people saying, what about children in care? What about the current legislative framework, which has been reduced, eased within children’s care homes so that the various protections are no longer afforded to them during the pandemic. We still don’t know why that’s happened. The government still hasn’t given us a definitive answer on that, but I know that it’s something that you are working on. So tell us a little bit about Statutory Instrument 445 and why you’re involved in that particular campaign.
2 (29m 55s):
Well, I’m involved in it because when, once the lockdown started, I was inundated with people calling me saying, Oh, I’m trying to get through to my social worker. They’re not answering the phones. I haven’t been paid. I’m still, I don’t know what to do. So then when article 39, I saw them starting to get actively involved in this and say, you know, but in lockdown, young people in the care sector need that extra care because a, B and C. And I’ll just get into that a little bit, because what I was doing when I was volunteering, going around to care homes, making sure young people of 16 plus in particular who were living in, in some independent care, Oh, food and stuff.
2 (30m 32s):
I just went, hang on a minute. What’s going on here? They they’ve just been left, abandoned, they can’t get through. So I started to make a few phone calls to local authorities. I was getting through to automated answering machines, you know, then cause I’m in the trenches with these young people. I see it then, you know, day and night, what the inevitable outcome is when, when social services is, you know, they’re, they’re cut off from young people when they stop going to see them, which most of them, again, you know, this is what you have to understand in this country though.
2 (31m 4s):
Trying to simplify, Things like County line gangs. They’re not, it’s not like you’re watching Dickens. Like they’re people, you know, walking around, who are educated. We’re talking about a complex organization here. They watch the news every day. Some of them might even be involved in political parties. I don’t know, but there is a very complex organization. And as soon as they see loopholes in our system, they take full advantage of them, like in lockdown. You’re not reading this in the news, You’re not seeing this in the media everyday, but hundreds and hundreds of kids are going missing.
2 (31m 39s):
Hundreds of kids are committing suicide, hundreds of kids are starving because they’ve just been left. They’ve just been abandoned. And that comes because social workers should be there every couple of days or even every day, making contact with young people on Zoom. So what this does is you’re taking away that support system without even consulting professionals or people who like myself who work in this environment and making this decision based on what, and that’s what’s annoying and which is getting everybody into a state or, you know, a frustration and that is why we need to speak to these young people, to see, see the state they’re in.
2 (32m 20s):
They’re scared. They don’t know what their fate is. They don’t know what’s going to happen. They need you now more than ever, but if they’re not there, then other organizations, criminal organizations are stepping up and filling their shoes. And that’s, that’s, what’s going to going to happen. The inevitability of 2020 is that more people will go missing, more people will commit suicide. More young people will be involved in County lines and more young people will be exploited into sexual criminal organizations too.
1 (32m 48s):
What other projects are you working on at the moment to try to raise awareness?
2 (32m 52s):
Well, I’m involved with article 39 as well on the sidelines as such, but you know, I, I’ve set up on my own as well. So I’ve got a company called Phoenix Care and we’re giving advice to government officials I worked with, Anne Longfield, I liaise a lot with her and just campaigning. You know, where, you know, as an, as a, as a solo person, just going out there helping charities and I’m doing all I can. And again, you know, my, my tool is social media because that’s the only place where you can actually get messages to, you know, people in power, bureaucrats, politicians, you know, and that’s where we are at the moment.
2 (33m 30s):
I just want this lockdown to end. As soon as it ends, I want, you know, charity groups and other organizations to start having a package prepped for the aftermath, because we’re going to see an increase in mental health with young people. So many younger people will go missing. We’ve got to find these young people, get them back into a safe place. Support systems needs to be set up ASAP.
1 (33m 55s):
Children have become a focal point within the news. At the moment, we’re seeing a lot of stories about children, whether it’s in the context of care or whether it’s the context of trafficking. And we know that a lot of news outlets are producing programs, TV programs about these issues. Are you working on anything like that at the moment?
2 (34m 14s):
Yes. I, you know, I, I was actively involved with BBC Newsnight when they did their investigations into care, home kids and semi independent care homes. So I’m, I have been speaking to BBC Newsnight again, and we’re hoping to do something on this in the next few weeks, just to look at young kids in the care sector and see what they’re been going through from the lockdown. And COVID-19, and just looking at some of the, you know, the parallels of what and the ramifications of what that what’s installed for them, once the lockdown is over and what they expect.
2 (34m 51s):
I don’t see social services, local authorities going back to normal ever again. I don’t think we’re going to see social workers going around to properties anymore. I think those days are really gone, well for the next four months. So that’s going to put a lot of young people in precarious situations, and that’s kind of my focus at the moment. That’s what I’ll be talking about with the BBC Newsnight.
1 (35m 13s):
If you had a wishlist that you would present to the government to direct them, to make changes within the system, what would be in your wishlist?
2 (35m 21s):
My main priority, my, my wishlist would be to first of all, regulate semi independent care homes so that initially they would stop rogue businessmen setting up these houses, which most of them are just dilapidated, and local authorities putting these young in these houses where there’s no support. So even at 16, you know, think about it this way. 16 year olds who’ve got no family, no friends. They’re put in these houses abandoned, left, and these houses, again, they’re not regulated by Ofsted so that doesn’t give them any legal protection, as a 16 year old, who’s living at home with their mom and dad and gone to college, who get, get all that protection.
2 (35m 59s):
So that is a big thing for me, regulating semi independent care homes. Secondly, I would like to see more young people, 16 plus from these care settings, be offered university places. Cause a lot of them have the talent and the ability to, you know, to go far in life and just don’t get that opportunity. And then thirdly, my, you know, I want to see every care home kid be treated as equals and that’s, you know, it’s, it’s, it’s kind of prevalent at the moment. And all the campaigns. And we start with the Me Too campaign, and then we’ve got the black lives matter.
2 (36m 30s):
And I always think, you know, one thing we’ve, which should also be included in these campaigns, is children’s lives matter too. Especially kids from care homes, they’re human beings after all aren’t they, you know, children and care children. And that for me is where we’re lacking here. The country lacks empathy and children in care are always left in the shadows, but they should be right there at the front, in the light.