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  • Writer's pictureBen Westwood

The day the care leavers got together

Updated: Jun 19, 2021

Last week in Liverpool a truly special event happened. The Care Experienced Conference at Liverpool Hope University. Perhaps not so special to those unable to empathize with the journey of young people in care and the adult lives that they go on to live - but to those of us that have lived and experienced such a life, it really felt like a much needed revolution was being made.

I may not have even knew about it if I hadn't been on Twitter over the past year or so to promote my book and the cause for more social understanding of children in care and runaways, and it was truly epic to meet some of the people I've been tweeting with since that time. Big respects to Ian and Sue Dickson for their fantastic work on getting some great heads together for this, and to everyone else involved in making such a memorable day filled with heaps of workshops and great souls banding together to see how we can build on many of the challenges care-experienced adults often face.

I found myself inspired constantly by care leavers of all ages, from those that saw some of the horrific injustices from many decades ago to young people recently out of the care system that have stressed that they still face many of the same stigmas that care leavers have faced since any of us can remember. But unlike certain parts of our lives - last Friday wasn't about us feeling alone,but empowered and driven to help make brighter futures for care leavers.

It was great to witness over 270 care leavers and social work professionals gathering together in one place. A big hats off to Lisa Cherry for her fantastic hosting on the day, great vibes she has and was able to blend in plenty of humor to such a deep discussion. Fantastic energy. Of course how can I not mention my old friend Ant whom I hadn't seen for nearly twenty years after we lived in the same children's home together. He was so rushed off his feet with volunteering at the conference that we never managed to get a selfie together but nevertheless it was good to see him and I hope we get to catch up properly again. Ant is also the lad I see late at night in my poem 'Taxi' in Poems From a Runaway. Hats of to Selina Anderson for her fantastic workshop hosting, must have been knackered after communicating with so many of us in one room at a time! And a pleasure to meet another bright spark. Unfortunately I missed Mike McKenzie's film about a foster child called 'Be-Longing' which I'm aching to see because everyone said it was really good - I myself attended a workshop thinking it was being shown later. It was also great to meet some of the WhoCares Scotland team and learn about some of their good work. They were all extremely welcoming to me and I was particularly impressed with the passion and fire in his belly for change of Kenny Murray as well of the rest of the team. There really is too many inspiring people to mention. Another highlight of the day was meeting super-creative PoisonPinkDaisy whom has been beautifully painting stones of the book covers of care experienced authors and writers. It was also great to meet Ian Gould and Ben Ashcroft from the campaign 'Every Child Leaving Care Matters' #ECLCM. Ben has written a book about his experience in care called 'Fifty-One Moves'. I donated a couple of my books to the raffle they had on the day and in return won the exact book I wanted which was 'Oi, You F*cker' by Snowball, which I've just started reading and will review soon.

It was also great to meet Thomas Keaney from TCES group as well as see the fabulous artwork by Rosie Canning. I must say that the art installation made by P.Yusuf touched a nerve with most of us and was very hard-hitting. It was a coat of labels given to ethnically-diverse young people and really made me think about many of the derogatory words thrown at children and young people from adults that should really know better, but don't. Some great poetry on display too from Ellan Maloney among others. I couldn't possibly list everyone, and some people may not wish to be tagged but some of the other people that I've been speaking with on Twitter it was absolutely great to have met every single one of you. I knew beforehand that it was going to be a very wholesome day and I'm glad to say that I wasn't disappointed. I just want to say one last thank you to Ian Dickson, Emma Lewell-Buck and Carrie Wilson- Harrop for taking all this even further and reaching out to the media and the government. You can also follow me on my Poems From a Runaway Twitter page and you can find out how to get my book on the 'My Book' section of this website.

I'm looking forward to next years #CareExpConf being even bigger and better.

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