Alex Horne blog – National Care Leavers’ Week, The First Decade
The story you’re about to read isn’t uncommon with young people that came from care. Many of my friends from care have had the same experiences. I’m telling it because I want you to make sure that there is a change for people in and about to go through the care system. A change in our education outcomes. In our job chances. And in how Scotland sees us.
My name is Alex. My life has included a lot of difficulty. Issues with education, multiple homeless placements, getting a job. But it has hope and shows what people in care can achieve, when supported and championed.
At 15 years old, I was in residential child care and at a residential school. I had received my exam results and, like so many other 15 year olds across Scotland, I wanted to continue my education up to 6th year. My school, however, couldn’t offer me a place.
In fact, the school was closing down. I was told that I was moving back home with my mum who I did not get on with at the time. Then I was told that we were moving from Aberdeen, where I stayed for most of my life, to South Ayrshire. After moving to South Ayrshire it was clear the problems between me and my mum had not gone away. I stayed with her for just over 1 ½ years before we had an argument and I was forced to go homeless.
I think looking back on what happened with my school a solution would have been to know before the school closed down, because it would have given me time to look at other options regarding higher education.
I presented as homeless aged 17 but was told because I left care before school leaving age and my 16th birthday, I wasn’t considered a care leaver. Bed and breakfast accommodation and supported lodgings were next for me until “suitable” accommodation became available. I was homeless – looking for somewhere to call home. Instead, I was offered accommodation and people talked to me about housing stock issues.
I think anyone reading this would see that it wasn’t the best idea for me to return home because nothing was going to get better, because my mum failed to see that she had a part to play in the problems.
The solution would have been to return to care at this point. Instead, I was homeless. There is no such service available to care leavers. Maybe that’s why so many of us experience homelessness.
After leaving homeless accommodation, I was moved into an area that was highly deprived. I started working, I started a family and I was getting ready to study an NC higher Social Care course. Education was always on my mind and things were looking up.
But I then ran into problems.
First; my bursary. I was told I couldn’t get funding because I didn’t have appropriate I.D. But why would I have ID like a passport as I didn’t ever go on holiday. This could have been sorted years before if all children and young people in care get a passport even if there is no intention in going abroad it would a young person an identity.
I started to struggle with the course work. I think a lot now about the reasons why I didn’t ask for help at college, even though I knew it was on offer.
I then stopped going to class and after 7 weeks, I dropped out because I fell so far behind. I told my friends and colleagues everything was fine. They thought I was at college when really I was in my house, hiding away. Maybe if I had parents that were interested in my education, they would have been “pushy”. Solution would have been for college to have extra support in place for me, helping me talk about my issues earlier.
My education was another victim of my circumstances. It wasn’t that I couldn’t learn. It was my ability to sustain a place that caused issues. Looking back, I should have got the help I needed – but I struggled to ask for it, as I felt I always needed help.
Things changed when relationships changed. When I eventually told someone that I had dropped out of college, their reaction wasn’t the disappointed or anger that I expected. In fact it was the opposite. People rallied round and asked what more they could have done. They showed me, for the first time, that my ambitions shouldn’t be restricted by my circumstances. I started aspiring to be something that I wanted to be, not what I was told I could only ever be.
The solution is to make sure that everyone in and out of care has someone they can talk to, but more importantly that person needs to earn they young person’s trust and fight their corner. They even need to motivate the young person even when they think there is no hope.
I am now working for Who Cares? Scotland as a Campaign and Training assistant. I share my experience with heads of service, elected members and I influence different organisations and corporate parents. I have been doing this for 3 years and I’m now doing an SVQ 3 in Children and Young People. I want to work in residential child care where I grew up because I want to make a difference to the sector that didn’t give me the best experience.
Young people need us to have aspirations for them. I know I will be a success in my life, but I want all young people from care to feel that way too.
I want them to get good highers, to go to uni, to get a job and to be happy while they do it. And I want them to feel like they will always have a place at home if things go wrong.
All young people are different but their aspirations shouldn’t depend on their circumstances. I will do everything I can do help get that for these young people. We all have a role to play.
National Care Leavers’ Week (24-30 October 2013)
National Care Leavers Week is about highlighting the needs of care leavers and encouraging those responsible for looking after them to work in a co-ordinated and effective way. The theme of this year’s event is ‘The First Decade’ and focuses on the journey of a young person leaving care to becoming firmly established in their adult lives.
Care Leaver, 20 Years Old
Have your say
Join in the discussion and help us make Scottish Education even better.