On Monday 29th June Islington’s Assembly Hall – a stunning 1930’s dancehall restored in 2009 – hosted all 53 projects who successfully applied to the DfE’s Innovation Fund. Spring Consortium had arranged the Learning Event so that everyone could experience the level of commitment to the programme from the DfE and have the opportunity to network with other partners.
Innovation in Children’s Social Care
Spring Consortium delivers the Children’s Social Care Innovation Programme. The DfE has committed over £100m to the programme to implement new ideas and generate learning for the sector on how to achieve better outcomes for children and young people. I was thrilled to attend the day along with Valerie and Jane as I had only been managing the project for 28 days. This was an amazing opportunity to discuss the exciting and challenging journey ahead with other talented and committed people working in Children’s Services.
I found the whole conference incredibly inspiring: there was so much expertise and knowledge and passion in that room. Isabelle Trowler, Chief Social Worker for Children and Families and Edward Timpson MP, the Minister of State for Children and Families both addressed the audience. But it was a young person who grew up in care who stole the show.
Luke Rodgers, Foster Focus
Luke Rodgers is a social entrepreneur who left his last foster care placement at 15. He set up Foster Focus to enable young people in care to have more of a voice. In his presentation he gave an overview of some of the shocking statistics regarding young people in care: 1/3 of young people in care are not in education, employment or training (known as NEET); just over 1 in 10 gets 5 GCSEs and ½ of the prison population have experienced care.
The power of language
Most of the people in the room knew of these statistics. We were there to change them. Most powerful was when he talked about the importance of the language we use when discussing children in care. He shared a report written about him and bore no resemblance to the charismatic young man standing in front of us. He then re-framed this report to explain the why behind some of his behaviour. So:
- ‘Luke is at high risk of absconding’ became ‘Luke was late home and his foster carers reported him missing.’
- ‘Luke struggles to follow simple house rules when living in a foster placement’ became ‘Luke has lived with so many families, he no longer knows what’s right or wrong.’
- ‘He Isolates himself in his room, we are seeking psychological assessments as we think the links to early childhood trauma’ became ‘Luke hides away because everyone keeps reminding him his step dad beat him.’
Luke is passionate about the power of language and the importance of not falling into the labelling trap. As an NLP Master Practitioner, I am a firm believer in the power of language too. I asked him about this over a coffee break. He explained that unless you are qualified in the field of mental health, you shouldn’t label young people because those labels might even trigger a mental health condition. We all carry the emotion and the memories of the teacher at school who didn’t think we would succeed and called us a ‘failure’ even many years later.