Charity says: It’s time to listen to children in care

Mandy Clarke is now studying at university. Picture: Jane Barlow
Mandy Clarke is now studying at university. Picture: Jane Barlow
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A CAMPAIGN aimed at bringing an end to the stigma and prejudice towards children in care has been launched in the Capital.

“It’s time to listen” aims to dispel myths about looked after children by encouraging people to sign a pledge promising to hear their side of the story.

It comes as research shows almost half of children in care are afraid of prejudice or ­bullying if people find out about their background.

In 2012, 1395 children and young people in Edinburgh were in care, with 227 on the Child Protection Register.

The campaign by the charity Who Cares? Scotland, which is supported by the Scottish Government and the Association of Director’s of Social Work, was launched at the National Young Persons Conference in Edinburgh. Mandy Clarke, 19, from Gorgie, is one of those supporting the campaign, having ­herself experienced life in care.

She said: “Being in care doesn’t mean you can’t have the best opportunities in life.

“When I was a young teenager, my mum couldn’t really handle me – I was going out all night and not coming home.

“I was put in to foster care when I was in fourth year, but that didn’t work out either.” It was then that Mandy was given a place at Lothian Villa ­Children’s Home in ­Musselburgh, which cares for six young ­people at a time.

Mandy, who grew up in Prestonpans and is now studying adult nursing at Napier University, said: “My experience was really positive.

“Education was still a big thing for me and in 2011 I got to go to Harvard Summer School in the US.

“Being in care supported me in addressing the areas in my life that were holding me back, but I have spoken to people who seemed to have been a bit surprised that I’ve done well.

“When I lived at Lothian Villa, there were times when things were stolen in the town and the first place the police came was the home – but we had nothing to do with it.”

It is hoped 25,000 people will sign the pledge2listen petition in the next five years – around one signature for every looked after child and care leaver in Scotland.

Lorraine Driscoll, a residential manager in Edinburgh, said it was time to end the prejudice faced by children in care.

“With the support of as many people in Edinburgh as ­possible, we believe this ­campaign will help end the discrimination of children in and from care, for good,” she said.

“It is time we stamped the stigma they face in their day-to-day lives, out’.

During the five-year campaign Who Cares? Scotland will also be working in partnership with councils to improving services for kids in care, such as access to good quality housing or an apprenticeship within the council.

Children and families spokeswoman Councillor Cathy ­Fullerton said: “The council is committed to ­reducing the amount of children going into care and we are ­investing in making sure support is ­provided for vulnerable ­children at the earliest point.

“By providing support to them and their families we aim to ensure all children are given the best possible start in life.”

dawn.morrison@edinburghnews.com