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Care leavers

Catch22 hosts Care Leavers’ Week celebrations

A diverse group of young adults stand close together, smiling directly at the camera.

On the 31st of October over 100 young care leavers joined us, from 30 local authorities, and from across England and Northern Ireland, for our annual gathering in Borough, London.

Nat O’Brien, Senior Project Coordinator for National Leaving Care Benchmarking Forum (NLCBF) discusses why we bring care leavers from across the UK together to learn, celebrate and reflect on their past and present achievements.

What is this event and how did it start?

Catch22 wanted something more than a celebration or a party; we wanted to create a space for our care leavers to feel safe and empowered.

Every year since 2015, Catch22, the National Leaving Care Benchmarking Forum and Young People’s Benchmarking Forum (YPBMF) have co-produced this event and hosted it during National Care Leavers’ Week to celebrate the achievements of care leavers. Over 100 young care leavers join us, from 30 local authorities, and from across England and Northern Ireland.

Such an event cannot be a success without the input from the young people themselves. Our fantastic planning team is made up of care-experienced sessional workers and volunteers. They deliver this event which is inspiring for every attendee and facilitates future discussions across the sector.

This year we were excited to welcome colleagues from the Department of Education, Research in Practice, Become Charity, Youth Justice Board and the Children’s Commissioners Office.

What does the theme ‘Identity’ mean for these young care leavers?

Themes such as LGBT+, complex needs, mental health, trauma and recovery, cultural/family background have all been raised as important issues to our care leavers. Increasingly popular both on YPBMF’s agenda and in the media is the issue of gaining access to care records.

We brought all of these ideas to the table and realised that identity was the theme behind all of them.

Have there been any outstanding achievements from care leavers this year worth mentioning?

We awarded a number of titles at the event, with the most hotly contested being Young People’s Benchmarking Forum ‘Champion of Champions’ 2019 and the Young People’s Benchmarking Forum Best Public Speaker award.

The judges had a very difficult job on their hands. Over the last 12 months Young People’s Benchmarking Forum Champions have delivered workshops at the HMPPS Conference and NNECL Conference, made radio appearances on Radio 4’s Money Box and BBC Lancashire, have attended Leicester Square premieres with the Loneliness Minister and even met with the Prime Minister and MPs to discuss violence issues.

What are the outcomes you hope to get from events like these?

We want everyone to have fun and with karaoke, games, a chocolate fountain and award ceremony, we always do. But the best part of our events, year on year, are the ideas shared and the openness of participants. We all work really hard but leave feeling inspired and energised every year.

What are the other events going on to celebrate this week?

  • Joe Shaw (last year’s YPBMF Champion of Champions and now a Catch22 sessional worker) will be presenting the Key Influencer award at the Greater Manchester Care Leavers Award at the Royal Northern College for Music.
  • The NLCBF Team will attend Care Leavers Association event in Manchester highlighting best practice in approaches to participation.
  • The NLCBF Team are working in partnership with HMPPS to deliver a conference for professionals from care leavers services, probation and prisons.
  • The NLCBF Team will support three care leavers to attend a European Conference in Hildesheim, Germany, for care leavers exploring best practice to support care leavers.