CHILDREN in care have made their voices heard after marching down to Number 10 Downing Street to demand they are no longer forgotten.

Terry Galloway has long been campaigning for children in care and care leavers not to be discriminated against, and now that message has been to the Prime Minister’s doorstep.

The man who spent much of his youth in care homes across Greater Manchester has successfully attained care leavers ‘protected characteristics’ status in 31 councils across the UK, including Wigan, Salford, Trafford, Manchester and Oldham.

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Within these councils, the care leavers are now categorised as protected from discrimination, just like anything relating to age, gender assignment, disability, race including colour, nationality, ethnic or national origin, religion or belief and sex. 

Helping Terry deliver the message to the heart of government were two 13-year-olds from Oldham. Precious, a child in foster care, and Penelope, vice-chair of Oldham Youth Council joined other campaigners on June 14 to deliver a report on protected characteristics to the Children’s Commissioner and Number 10, Downing Street.

Leigh Journal: The campaign group at Downing Street ready to hand in their report on protected characteristics to the Children’s Commissioner and Number 10The campaign group at Downing Street ready to hand in their report on protected characteristics to the Children’s Commissioner and Number 10 (Image: Terry Galloway)

After the meeting with Childrens’ Commissioner for England, Dame Rachel De Souza, Penelope, Oldham Youth Council vice-chair said: “The experience of attending a meeting with the department of education’s children’s commissioner allowed us to create a safe space to listen to and speak about care experience becoming a protected characteristic. 

“Though not care-experienced myself, it enabled me to vocally champion the voices of those who are and clearly state our encouragement for other youth councils across the country to do the same. Going to 10 Downing Street was an amazing and liberating opportunity to pass this forward on a national level, hopefully the government will listen and understand that it’s imperative for children in care to be irredeemably a proper characteristic.”

Precious added that speaking to the commissioner was ‘really good’ as it enabled those in power to hear stories about how discrimination has impacted the lives of care leavers. A tour of Parliament for the youngsters was also a big bonus for the group that have taken to politics and democracy at an early age.

Leigh Journal: Terry GallowayTerry Galloway (Image: Terry Galloway)

“Their corporate parents (councils) would be so proud of what their children achieved today,” Terry Galloway, lead campaigner, said. “It was hard, it was emotional, but they stood up to care for experienced people everywhere as they spoke about the discrimination and stigma they go through on a daily basis.

“So at the very least people should listen to them.”

The campaign to make the care experienced a protected characteristic was a recommendation by Josh MacAlister, Chair of the Independent Review of Children’s Social Care. However in its response to the Independent Review of Children’s Social Care the Government said no.

Despite this setback, 31 councils across the UK have passed motions treating care experience as if it were a protected characteristic. These councils represent 17.97 per cent of the UK population, the campaigners have claimed.

In the coming months, Terry is hoping that more councils will follow suit.

The group are making the following recommendations to the Government:

  • Government should introduce legislation without delay, so that “Care Experience” becomes a Protected Characteristic in UK Equality law
  • Government should commission an information campaign to inform care experienced people about Protected Characteristics, Equitable Equality, and the powers available in relation to section 149 and Equality Impact Assessments that could relate to Care Experienced people if it were a protected characteristic
  • Government should consult with care experienced people and those who are associated with us about the difficulties we face in relation to stigma, direct and indirect discrimination and to explore the ramifications of introducing care experience as a Protected Characteristic under the Equality Act 2010
  • Government should consult with and listen to the devolved nations of Scotland and Wales about whether protected characteristics for care experienced people should be introduced across the United Kingdom
  • Government should commission a destination study identifying where experienced people are, which services they use and their long-term outcomes and experiences