“What became clearer to me as our inquiry took shape was the discrimination that care leavers face on a day to day basis. Discrimination that impacts theirs and their children’s life chances.”
By Jack Sargeant MS
I have the privilege of chairing the Senedd Petitions Committee and this means I get to speak to campaigners and individuals from across Wales who are seeking change.
One petition that really opened my eyes was from Nicola Jones, a foster carer, who was concerned about the outcomes for young people who become parents whilst being looked after by the local authority or having recently left care.
Both my committee and the Senedd’s Children and Young peoples Committee chaired by passionate campaigner Jayne Bryant MS took a look into this issue and last week it was debated in the Senedd.
We already know that people who have experienced the Care System face lifelong challenges that most of us just don’t face. That is why I am a big supporter of the Welsh Governments Basic Income Trial for Care Leavers and why I campaigned so hard to get the trial in the first place.
What became clearer to me as our inquiry took shape was the discrimination that care leavers face on a day to day basis. Discrimination that impacts theirs and their children’s life chances.
We were fortunate to hear from 25 care experienced parents who shared deeply personal, often painful, experiences, in order to try to prevent others going through similar experiences One young person spoke about her experience of giving birth:
“I had terrible hospital treatment. I felt more like a criminal than a new mother, to be honest with you. I was clearly being judged.”
This is not an experience we should look to explain away or accept.
Worryingly, research shows that care experienced young people are often over represented in care and child protection proceedings. We took evidence from Dr. Louise Roberts, Cardiff University. Her research found concerning evidence in respect of outcomes and levels of parent and child separation. A snapshot of care experienced parents undertaken identified 258 parents and showed that 26 per cent of children were separated from both biological parents.
The research pointed to evidence of stigma, discrimination and disadvantage in professionals’ approach and attitudes towards care experienced parents – that their experiences before care and in care would impact their ability to be parents. It highlighted routine referral of parents to children’s services for parenting assessments. This is not usual practice for all young parents.
The Petitions Committee made six recommendations. You can read about them here.
The case for change and fairness is overwhelming and I want to finish and underline this point by sharing this example raised with me by one care experienced parent. They told of a visit from a social worker who noticed an unopened bottle of wine in their house. A perfectly normal thing I am sure you agree. Despite the fact the parent doesn’t even drink the social worker opened and poured the wine away saying, “you will end up just like your mother.” None of us should be judged in this way.
The Petitions Committee is about amplifying voices and all elected representative and others in positions of influence should use their platform to do just this.
- Jack Sargeant is a member of the Senedd representing Alyn and Deeside and a regular contributor for Labour Outlook. You can follow him on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
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