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Demanding to be heard – Why it’s vital that the review of children’s social care hears, not just listens, to those with care experience

There has been a lot of online discussion about how the review of children’s social care needs to listen to those with care experience, with concerns raised about the establishment of the “experts by experience” group as the first step in this process. I’ve been struck by the strength of feeling on this issue because, as someone new to the conversation, there seems to be commitment from the review chair Josh MacAlister to listen closely.  But, if your lived experience is that you’ve never really been heard, even when people tell you they’re listening – I can totally understand the response to distrust in that commitment. 

We know at Become that our work is better because we look to co-produce it with the children and young people whose lives it’s there to support.  Our experience from working with our young people’s advisory group is that our input into sector policy discussions and our influencing work in Westminster has greater impact because it is rooted in reality not theory and has children and young people front and centre. 

It’s why the review really must hear and respond to those with care experience, and reflect what it hears in the DNA of what it reports to Government. 

A central tenet of a “bold new system” has to give real, and genuine, power and agency to the children and young people to whom that system is their life.  Children in state care deserve the very best support, love and opportunity and everything I’ve heard, seen and read in the last few weeks has brought home to me just how far we are from being anywhere near close to that vision. 

The realities of lived experiences have to drive the work of the review, and so at Become we are committed to working constructively with the review team to make sure that meaningful participation is at the core of its work, and giving agency and power to children and young people is non-negotiable in terms of its outcomes. 

I got the chance to meet with Josh directly at the end of last week and extended Become’s offer to work with his team to ensure that they hear what young people and children with care experience have to say.  He assured me that he was committed to active and careful listening and here at Become it is our mission to hold him to that.  As has been said, this is a once-in-a-generation opportunity, and it seems to me the stakes for those in care are far too high for that opportunity to be squandered.  

*By far the best thing I’ve heard so far is the From Care to Where? podcast.  I can’t wait for Series 2.

- Victoria Langer, Interim CEO at Become