Who Cares? magazine was set up by Tory Laughland, a Westminster social worker, together with a small group of social work colleagues. Tory felt that it was time young people in care received something just for them; somewhere they could not only hear about other teenagers in the same situation, be inspired by older care leavers who are doing well, but also where they could air their problems and experiences and feel properly listened to.
After nine issues of Who Cares? and increasing popularity, the magazine went from Westminster-only distribution to a nationwide reach with the support of the National Children’s Bureau (NCB) and the National Association of Young People in Care (NAYPIC). Out of the magazine, a charity was formed, called The Who Cares? Trust
The Who Cares? Trust is launched as a charity, publishing Who Cares? magazine and running a range of projects to help children in care and young care leavers, as well as policy influencing and research work. Circulation of Who Cares? at that time is 18,000 – a quarter of all young people in care. Founder Tory Laughland says in a Times article about Who Cares? magazine: ‘It’s indefensible how badly the system is run. It’s very fragmented – you get wonderful practice in one place, and abysmal in the next.’
Susanna Cheal becomes Chief Executive. The charity opens Linkline, a telephone helpline offering support and information for young people in care, which operates for several years. September 1997 – broadcaster Jon Snow becomes our Honorary President.
The charity founds the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Looked After Children and Care Leavers with Hilton Dawson as its first Chair. The first issues it looks at are education, support for care leavers and challenges facing staff in residential care. The charity publishes Remember My Messages, a report analysing what 2,000 children in care aged 10-16 said about their lives in the first largescale survey aimed at establishing the reality of life in care. Jon Snow says at the launch in the House of Commons: ‘This report makes a major contribution to the current high profile debate around children in public care. We will ensure that what these 2,000 children think and feel about their experience is central to decision-making to improve services and influence policy.’
The charity runs its Equal Chances programme (with 700 children in care participating) to support local authorities in fulfilling their duty as corporate parents to promote the education of children in care. It includes an audit toolkit for elected members, foster carers and children.
The charity launches its Employability Programme aimed at increasing awareness of the disadvantage faced by young people leaving care when seeking access to further education, training and employment. The first Biking for Children in Care event (the brainchild of Gill Timmis) happens with eight people cycling from Land’s End to John O’Groats and raising £30,000 for the charity. The event goes on to become an annual fixture and Gill earns an MBE for her fundraising efforts for us. The charity celebrates its tenth birthday with a reception at Lancaster House, London. Health minister Jacqui Smith MP praises the charity’s many ‘innovative projects’ and its work with the Department of Health and the (then) Department for Education and Skills producing guidance on the education of children in care.
A version of Who Cares? magazine is launched for younger children. Initially called KLIC (Kids Living in Care), it later changes its name to Who Cares? Junior.
Children returning home from care is the theme of a major project run by the charity called ‘Going Home’. This results in an influential report for local authorities setting out a best practice model to achieve the best chance of a successful ‘reunification’.
Natasha Finlayson becomes Chief Executive. Children’s author Jacqueline Wilson becomes a Patron of the charity, saying ‘It’s good to know that real-life Tracy Beakers are being listened to.’
At the invitation of the Trust, Edward Timpson MP becomes Chair of the APPG for Looked After Children and Care Leavers, a position he holds until 2012 when he becomes Children’s Minister. The charity launches a multimedia campaign called ‘Don’t Write Us Off’, supporting young people to ‘tell the truth’ about life in care and to confront stereotypes about care in a bid to de-stigmatise the system. Care leavers get involved with lobbying parliament, producing a film about care, organising a photography exhibition and developing a campaign website.
Our analysis of Access Agreements (designed by the government to justify top universities setting fees of £9,000 a year) for the top 20 English universities reveals that 40% of them do not include specific support for care leavers and that only three of the top 20 English universities have set any kind of target or milestone for increasing participation of care leavers.
‘Our’ APPG joins forces with the APPG for Runaway and Missing Children and Adults to launch an inquiry into the care and support provided for the thousands of children who run away or go missing from care. The inquiry looks at looked-after children who are placed away from their home local authority, data collection and information sharing, police responses and the role of inspection and assessment. Edward Timpson MP, as Chair of the APPG, publishes the report of the APPG’s inquiry into the education of care leavers. Recommendations to improve the educational outcomes of young people in care includes a Pupil Premium Plus, which later becomes a statutory entitlement. The Who Cares? Trust is one of eight charities that come together to launch The Care Inquiry looking into how best to provide stable and permanent homes for children in England who cannot live with their birth parents.
We start our Passport to Parliament project, taking the APPG on a regional roadshow to enable young people from around the country to engage in national political issues and to campaign for the improvements to the care system they want to see. The APPG for Looked-After Children and Care Leavers launches the Entitlements Inquiry to understand the differences between the support those in care and care leavers are entitled to, and what they receive. The inquiry’s report is released in in October, which includes the finding that half of all care leavers don’t think they have a pathway plan (a key legal entitlement). The charity welcomes the announcement of the Staying Put reforms (allowing children to stay with their foster carer until 21) but adds that ‘we mustn’t forget that the 9% of young people in care who live in children’s homes – many of whom leave when they are 16 or 17 – need and deserve the same level of support and we hope that the government will start to look towards ways of achieving this.’
The Trust launches its H.E. Handbook for Care Leavers, an online guide to the range of support available to them from 140 universities and colleges across England and Scotland. It includes details of bursaries and grants, outreach work and welfare and accommodation support. This will later develops into a website called Propel. Our one-year-on update on the Entitlements Inquiry finds that despite progress in some areas, many young people are still not getting everything they are legally entitled to from their local authority.
We publish the findings of our consultation into what young people think about the idea of a form of Staying Put in residential care. Principles of Care, a major report setting out our vision for reform of the care system, is published. We open our Care Advice Line, providing advice and information for any children in care and young care leavers via phone and online. We launch Propel, a website setting out UK universities’ pastoral and financial provision for care leavers, as well as inspirational stories from care-experienced students who have successfully made the transition from care to higher education.
We designate 19 February as Care Day, working with the four leading charities for children in care in the other UK nations and the Republic of Ireland. The hashtag #CareDay trends on Twitter! We publish our first free factsheets for young people in care, on themes raised by callers to the Care Advice Line – they prove extremely popular. We publish the factsheets in the top five languages spoken by unaccompanied refugee children arriving in the UK. The Who Cares? Trust becomes… Become!
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