BY ALICIA EDMUND
EMERGING VOICES | COVID 19
Interviewer: Maddy Weaver (Communications and Policy Officer)
I live in W10. To non-Londoners that is North Kensington, known for events like Notting Hill Carnival, beautiful townhouses and wealth, but also for tragedies like Grenfell. Home for me is within walking distance of Grenfell tower. As a community we are still grieving from the fire and now we are adjusting to life in the pandemic.
At the start of the year I was staying with my parents, but a few days before lockdown I had to suddenly move back into my own place. Since then, I’ve been living by myself the whole time. It has definitely not been easy; I’d say it has been the worst year since I was young. Things are very different in my daily life, in the plans I make, and in the environment around me.
Because of my upbringing [growing up in care], I don’t get too close to people. I’m more of a lone wolf, rather than travelling in a pack. My mum and my dad are the main people in my life and during lockdown I couldn’t see anyone at all. The restrictions have had a massive effect on me.
“IT HAS ALSO HAD AN IMPACT ON MY FUTURE PLANS BECAUSE NOW I CAN’T PLAN AHEAD. I HAVE TO TAKE THINGS ONE STEP AT A TIME. NOW I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT I’LL BE DOING IN 10 YEARS’ TIME, BECAUSE THERE IS SO MUCH UNCERTAINTY. IT FEELS LIKE COVID HAS GOT A MASSIVE HOLD OVER MY ENTIRE LIFE.”
Improving youth voice within Leap’s care programme
I got involved with Leap back in 2015 when I was 22. A worker from Element introduced me to Leap’s Care Programme Manager, Katie and I started attending programme planning and curriculum development sessions. For several months, I was the only young person involved, but working with Katie and the wider Leap team made me feel relaxed. We spoke about our thoughts of the care system, how foster carers and young people should work together and how social services could be more involved. I shared my own experiences and spoke a lot about how I felt the care system had either failed me or helped me in different ways.
June this year, Katie reached out to me again, this time inviting me to join a group of other young care leavers to co-produce a resource for young people in care. Because I have worked with Leap before, I knew this was a project that I wanted to be part of and could contribute to.
The online delivery was really good, even with the technical challenges faced by some of us over Zoom. I had such fun, it was great being able to join in conversations with other care leavers, and have the opportunity to put forward our own views on the care system, our relationship with social services and how we feel generally. Everyone had really strong opinions on the topic, and it felt so valuable to have this space for a group of care leavers to share our experiences. It helped us understand how conflict affects our daily lives, and different ways of managing conflict. We are now working together to produce a podcast for care leavers, and I can’t wait for it to be released.
I am now 24 years old and, although this year isn’t how I had planned, I believe I still have a lot to contribute. Opportunities through Leap and other charities have increased belief in myself. I am confident that my voice and my experiences can positively affect the lives of other young people growing up in the care system. That is what I am committed to doing as we move into 2021.