CAN DO Healthcare Thinking Differently Together - Growing Up In Care

Wednesday 20th March 2024 - 2.00pm - 5.00pm Suffolk and North East Essex Integrated Care System (ICS) ‘Thinking Differently Together’ about… Growing Up In Care 1. Introduction Phanuel Mutumburi, Director at the Ipswich and Suffolk Council for Racial Equality (ISCRE) Today’s very important conversation aims to hear the lived experience of people who have grown up in care, and some of the experts in this area who understand the life challenges that they face on a day-to-day basis. Our aim is to start to think differently together, moving away from experts operating in silos and starting to think about how we can make best use of our different strengths, spaces, and positions in order to improve outcomes for care experienced young people and adults, and our communities. We know that the situation for care experienced people is not as fair as we would want it to be, and their outcomes are not as equal as we would want them to be. There are people in our system that unfortunately are being left behind, people that are finding themselves in the criminal justice system, people that could be gainfully employed, supporting their families and supporting their children. There is more that we can do to understand and improve their experiences. Phanuel Mutumburi, Director - Ipswich and Suffolk Council for Racial Equality (ISCRE) and Ed Garratt OBE, CEO - NHS Suffolk and North East Essex Integrated Care Board (ICB) When we give equitable and fair opportunities to everyone, we all benefit as a society. By sharing our experiences, we can start to have a conversation as a system, to ask how people in health and care, in the statutory and voluntary sectors, and in different sort of partnerships, can help to achieve the outcomes that we want for our families and children growing up in care. We will see some very stark statistics and information on people’s experiences that make for uncomfortable reading, but we cannot shy away from uncomfortable conversations, because that is what drives us to want to make the changes that we need for our communities. 1 | Suffolk and North East Essex Integrated Care System

Ed Garratt OBE, CEO - NHS Suffolk and North East Essex Integrated Care Board (ICB) I think what we really value in SNEE and what we’re trying to promote is a culture of thinking differently and of fighting for social justice. We have been thinking differently a lot about physical and psychological safety, giving people purpose to thrive and how you create a sense of belonging: A sense of belonging which means you are much more likely to prosper and thrive in life, and reduce the isolation that allows problems to rise up and negatively affect life outcomes. We also really value lived experience in our system and starting by understanding people – starting with why? I value opportunities to learn about the lived experience of others, and was invited to visit a young offenders’ institution where some young people from Suffolk and North East Essex are being supported. The thing I found most striking was how many of the young offenders were young black men who had been involved in gang violence, and almost all of them had been born into violent situations or had been pushed into gang violence. They hadn’t had the best start in life and certainly hadn’t chosen their circumstances. Many of them had been looked after children and the experience showed how they were looking for role models and looking to break out of the circumstances and experience they were in. People often claim that these young men had failed society, but the reality is that society had failed them, and was continuing to fail them – they don’t have the privileges of safety, purpose and belonging and this creates a really challenging situation for their health and their future. The importance of this event is illustrated and driven by the appalling outcomes we see for young people who have started in difficult circumstances. We don’t talk enough about this group of people and this lived experience – if we don’t do this then we don’t learn from lived experience or identify the ways that as an entire partnership we can do things differently and change these outcomes for the better. Suffolk and North East Essex Integrated Care Board Thinking Differently Together | 2

2. Start with WHY My name is David Akinsanya, and I grew up in care in Essex, and actually I was sent to Rochester when I left care, for allocation to the borstal that I spent twelve months at when I was a teenager leaving care. If you look at the outcomes for people who have been looked after, they are appalling. I see a lot on social media, on platforms like X, of comments from disaffected parents whose children have been taken away by statutory services, about how they have had their children removed because they were bad parents but then the statutory services have gone on to be very, very bad parents. You can see there are people out there who are starting to doubt the work of social workers and the system. When I was younger, I used to think that social workers deliberately messed us kids up because they wanted to create more jobs; there are lots of people who pay their mortgages off the back of that they’re supposed to be looking after and taking care of looked after children. From my perspective as a campaigner I try to get involved in as many things as I can, and I was involved in the recent Government review on looked after children. The outcomes were really disappointing: We were asking for proper investment to fix the system and were given just a tiny bit of money, and we can already see that Local Authorities are looking to cut back on what they do for looked after children so in all my years of campaigning - since I was 14 - I have never been so scared about what is going to happen to looked after children. It is partly because we know there is no money, partly because we’ve been investing a lot of money for a long time in things that simply don’t work. There is no reason why a child should leave care and go straight into the justice system. When I was a child, the stereotype was that the boys left care and went to borstal and the girls left and got pregnant. I don’t think much has changed since then. I think we need to actually listen the lived experience. People like me have been banging on about this for years, most council authorities have got a Children in Care Council, so we are as a group, putting our ideas forward. There’s a postcode lottery if you are in care - if you are in Essex, you may get one thing but in Suffolk you might not get that, so it’s important to empower young people to know about what their rights are. Essex and Suffolk have not yet signed up to the protected characteristics campaign which has been run around the country - 82 Local Authorities have signed that. We should be doing all we can for children in care - why haven’t the NHS HR departments specifically recruited people who have been in care into jobs? We should be using all the resources and facilities within our community to make sure that we support looked after children. To avoid young people going into prison, surely, we should be supporting them through those vulnerable years from 15-23. This is the time they are most vulnerable to getting involved in things that are negative - mental health, prisons. We just seem to be going round and round after all these years and nothing has changed. It needs to stop, and we need to equip young people and give them the right thing at the right time - not abandon them at 15. When I was 15 and found out I would be living on my own I was happy with the idea of doing it but then when that happened, I found myself surviving on pot noodles and biscuits, and stealing my clothes because I didn’t have any money, that was the reality of it. We hear how young people are sent away from their communities and into areas that they don’t really know because that’s where the provision is, that might help the councils and systems, but it isn’t helping young people by sending them away from a place where they had belonging. Feeling like you belong is a big thing David Akinsanya, Journalist and Campaigner Experiences of growing up in care 3 | Suffolk and North East Essex Integrated Care System

for young people in the care system because a lot of the time they don’t feel like they belong. It’s difficult to go back to a family who you’ve been taken away from and say, ‘I need some help’. That family may not be able to support you. I know that a lot of young people in care rely on the voluntary sector for the emotional and practical support that they need. The NHS and Social Services are people who ‘do things to you’, while the voluntary sector is not bogged down with bureaucracy. Not enough money is spent with these grass roots organisations who really do give young people a feeling of belonging - where workers go above and beyond. Young people in care are not stupid - they know that workers are being paid, so when someone does go above and beyond, that is when a young person really does engage with them. My own Social Worker is an example. I was the only kid left in the children’s home at Christmas and she would apply to take me home with her for Christmas. She didn’t have to do that, but she did it, and what she did was to give me memories of my childhood that I wouldn’t have had - having a present, having a birthday card - a personalised birthday card. I remember there used to be a box of cards in the social work office for workers to come in and take one from the box to write out for a young person. Now I was all for that, it’s important that you remember birthdays and important occasions, but my social worker didn’t do that; she said, ‘I want one that is about you, specifically celebrating something about you’. That is the going beyond that I’m talking about. No one goes into social work to sit behind a computer, but that is where a lot of time is spent these days. My social worker, Jenni, used to say that the best time to talk to her was when sat in the car going somewhere - she did some of her best work just driving kids around to places. I’ve been doing this for forty years - I’m nearly sixty, and sometimes I look around and think nothing has changed. Nothing has changed. I’ve begged, I’ve cried, I’ve done all sorts to try and get people to change the system - it’s people like you who can do something. I just want to see things change. I know how hard it is, but we have to do it because we are just creating a group of people in society that haven’t been invested in. It doesn’t make sense. We’ve seen the outcomes and they are stark. Let’s make the system better for young people so they can forge a life for themselves. I was placed in Sudbury, but I was originally from Maidstone, born and bred. I went in at 16 and came out at 19. I was originally put in on an education basis but once I arrived and was there a few months, they decided I needed a bit more care than just education. Where I was supposed to come home for weekends, I ended up just staying there full time. When I left care, they took my back to my local borough of Maidstone with two black bags, and basically said that’s your lot, because all the funding had stopped. By this point I was deemed to be an adult so Social Services weren’t keen to get involved, so there was no support there from them. I got put into temporary accommodation in Maidstone, but I was in an abusive relationship at the time, so I decided, stupidly, to leave and go and live with her. When that didn’t work out, I found myself living on the streets. I contacted London Street Rescue - who have to come out and see you on the street for 24 hours, asses you and fill in a form, and then return 24 hours later. I was put into St Mungo’s, which was based in Southwark, right by the Station. It was awful - lots of crackheads, lots of drunks, some big guys. I was only 19 so still very vulnerable - I have ADHD and Aspergers as well so that didn’t help. It was a difficult time: There was a guy there that was blind and would pay people £10 to inject him with heroin, although I didn’t get involved in that many people did. My experience of leaving care Matt White, Care Leaver Thinking Differently Together | 4

I was quite smart, so I leant on my autism a bit to make me seem more vulnerable to needing help - I didn’t want to come across as a character that was really confident and full of myself, because I wasn’t and didn’t want to portray that in the wrong way. One of the things I said to London Street Rescue though, was that I needed to have a room with a lock on the door, because in most of the rooms people were paired up and there was no privacy, and because of the sexual abuse I ‘d experienced when I was younger, I couldn’t do that. What made a difference to me is when I was in the library, on Facebook, and I started to chat to one of my old carers. She put me onto someone she thought could really help me out. We got talking and I ended up going and staying there for 6-8 months, and it gave me a stepping-stone to bounce off from and get my life back in order to where I am today. I started in warehouse work, and then moved into sales, and working for the UKs biggest luxury bathroom supplier. Started earning really good money, working at the flagship, got a roof over my head, a little boy. Sometimes I look back on it and have to pinch myself that I was in that situation and now I’m here. It can be done, but there’s just not enough support out there from the local authorities to support children and young adults when they’re coming out of these stings, unless you’re severely autistic or you’re considered astute or quite with it, you’re just left on your own. At 18 when you’ve left care and that’s that, it’s very harsh. It’s like they say ‘we’ve done our bit now’. I didn’t put myself in any situation, I was a victim of my circumstances and my surroundings. It was unfortunate that things went the way they did in my life, but I certainly never wanted to be homeless, never wanted to experience being in an abusive relationship - I didn’t ask for any of that. If there was more support like I got then there’d be a lot more people out there today that don’t end up falling into the system and going into prison, and don’t end up drinking and on drugs, and don’t end up in gangs or any of those different situations that young people find themselves in. I am a Suffolk care leaver who actively wants to see change in the whole child social care sector, before many more lives are ruined. I found my time in care felt like a let-down. I felt failed and effectively, forgotten by the councils, local authority, the people that you’re housed with and so on. My whole passion is advocating for our young people - our country’s young people, because the councils are the corporate parents for children in care, so I do think they are the country’s children, and we need to start to remember them. Today we seem to be living in a world that thrives on forgetting these young people. We seem to allow them to fall through the net intentionally and allow them to be forgotten. Everyone here today could be part of a decision that will affect a child’s life forever, and that could be either negatively or positively. All children in care are no different to your own children, except for the small matter of DNA. The principles in ensuring a child’s protection and safety should never change, the principles in ensuring belief in a child, empowering their ambitions and teaching them the values of loving care should never be forgotten. Why if you instil all of these principles in your children, does the system seem to forget to instil them in children in care? We are here to hear from different people with different knowledge and expertise, and I’d like to thank the voluntary sector, children’s workers, foster carers and social workers - everyone that’s involved in providing care for young people that are in care but I can’t thank the council leaders, or many leaders, because I still think that today the system is failing many young people way too much. Not just from the sense of where they first come into care, but right the way through to when they leave care, and that’s to do with placements, education, support needs with mental health, being able to move them onto adulthood and so many other areas. I think we Julian Brown, Care Leaver and Advocate 5 | Suffolk and North East Essex Integrated Care System

need to start hearing from more young people, because they have the most lived experience. There are people who have worked for many years in the sector that have loads of knowledge, and although I would never discredit that, it’s the young people that are living it every day and have lived it, are the ones that can share their voices and try and change the system that is so broken. There are a large number of children in care - over 900 in Suffolk and over 1,000 in Essex. Those statistics are upsetting because no child should ever be in care, but its more upsetting to hear and shocking to learn that the councils and leaders of some organisations really haven’t learnt the lessons yet. The budget cuts ahead for many councils mean that so many more young people will be kept at home in certain situations where they need to be taken to be looked after properly, and services and workers that work with young people and are being provided for young people are being cut to a bare minimum, and a lot of the time early intervention prioritised. These measures won’t really work because they’re just interim small measures. What I want people to know is that when you’re thinking about these budgets just remember the phrase that you don’t know what goes on behind closed doors, because there is so much that happens, and often young people are at the bottom of council priorities. It’s the voluntary sector and campaigners that I want to thank - every day they are working so hard to battle the constraints of a very broken system. From day one the system impacts us in ways that many of you will never imagine. The fear and terror in someone’s mind when they’re taken from all they know and placed in a strangers home is something that even I block out in my mind. There’s no mental or emotional support for when you’re taken from your family and placed straight into care. The services can’t fill that void because there’s not money or enough workers to be able to provide the support that young people need. Many young people describe their experience of coming into care and being in care, as going from one hell to another. The system fails us in so many ways and this is not through any of the carer’s fault - they’re the bedrock of the system, bringing us in, filling us with hope and trying to give us a leg-up in life, which is an empowering thing. However, all of the other resources such as social workers, leaving care workers, voluntary organisations are so overworked and in so much demand that they can’t provide the best support. As placements and time develop, we know that the vulnerabilities of those involved deepen, however we as a sector, and society, are often willing to overlook this. No thoughts of the consequences on a child’s life and thoughts for the future of the implications of the decisions that you make. Around fifty percent of all care experienced young people have a conviction by the age of 24. I want to question why that is, because when a young person in care gets into bother, or goes missing, the first thing to do is to call the Police, but why is the young person committing a crime? How is the system making them feel so worthless, hopeless, misplaced, alone, angry to then go out and commit crimes, or go out and provide for themselves - whether it’s food, clothing, water or other things. I often ask myself why this continues to happen but realistically the system is very broken. When you are moved from pillar to post, belittled in school, dismissed by carers or social workers, and treated like a number, what confidence or hope can any young person really obtain? So what we see here is statistics that represent the impact of the system. Young people are looking for somewhere to feel safe, to feel at home, somewhere they can build their foundations and design their own destiny. However, what we find happens is that young people are placed in areas of high exploitation and crime, or areas of high poverty: this leads these young people into feeling so hopeless and in such despair that they just want to try and fit in, to feel like they’re important to someone, to have somewhere they can go and talk to people - and a lot of the time gangs and people who are looking to exploit these vulnerable young people will prey upon this and get them involved in their activities. Then the young person feels important and like someone is noticing them. They feel like I’m not just there, not just a number. I wrote a spoken word piece a few years ago - it said; ‘who are you to forget our name, do you think we’re all the same?’ and its based on young people in care feeling like they are absolutely nothing. That can’t continue to happen. Thinking Differently Together | 6

When I look at the barriers of the care system, there are just so many. We are looking at provision, at education, are we providing them with what they need? For me a big issue is mental health, I’ve had some very tumultuous battles, and so many other care leavers and care experienced young people everyday are battling with this. With all the people I speak to on this the one thing that repeats is that there’s not enough mental health support for these young people. Not enough to make sure they get it when they need it, that they’re treated like a human, that they’re not just someone in a system that’s got lost. Showing that compassion and care and empathy - we come into care so full of trauma we’ve been exposed to already and then put into a system that chews you up and spits you back out more traumatised and then just left feeling like ‘that’s’ your problem now, we’ve done our bit - given you food, given you clothes, the rest isn’t out problem’. We know mental health demand is through the roof but there needs to more prioritisation of children and young people in care - they’re traumatised. I was traumatised - it led me to such dark places, and I was in hospital numerous times. It’s a very dark place for any young person to feel like they’re not valued. If you don’t start with mental health early on, then what happens is that young person goes on to more self-destructive measures. This might be in the prime of their education time - not going to school, getting in with the wrong people, closing themself down from the world, running away - I did this when I was younger. Knowing this and what we know from the statistics, why aren’t we starting with this when young people are brought into care? Instilling ambition, belief, and enabling a child to see what they can do so they can see what their potential is. I speak to a lot of young people, and one thing that we all think is how education is in an important point for your future. So many young people have said that we come into care too late – the child is already a victim of trauma, neglect or abuse at home, so when we come into care our education is often disrupted because there is so much else to try and unravel. No one seems to think about how we change this and get better outcomes for children in care - it’s all about the outcomes. Instead, it seems to be all about ticking a box for many councils. We must have more conversations about how we better educate our young people, how we make the service better for them, how we improve retaining them in education and instilling selfbelief. Otherwise, you’re in education, your 18th birthday comes, and you get a letter from your provider telling you it’s time to move on. Is that really what you would do to your own children? If you wouldn’t do it to your own children, then why are we doing it to so many young people in care every year? Throw them out at 18 and we know most young people end up in debt within 2 years, or homeless - 25% of all homeless young people are care-experienced, 25-30% of convictions in the adult justice system are care experienced young people. Young people who have been in care are more susceptible to drug and alcohol addiction. We all know this is the end result, so what can we do to better that? I think it fundamentally starts with giving them a sense of belonging, giving them a sense of purpose, and making sure that mental health services are there to support them to feel like they are worthy - that they have got the life skills they need. We must do this or one day we will turn on our tv and see a report that we have lost a child though their poor mental health. This is a reality for many young people who have been in care. We also need more support for care leavers with Personal Assistants: They are fundamental to providing support - you wouldn’t leave any 18-year-old without help in knowing what support they can get. They deserve it, they’re entitled to it and it should be given so they have people that can fight their corner. We don’t know how to do this on our own. You need to actively make a change to cut all the statistics that everyone talks about, and we all know about. You need to hear the real stories from young people who are feeling so lost, empty, and forgotten. We can’t forget yesterday but we can use what people have lived in yesterday’s world to make a positive impact in the future. They are some of the most amazing young people, and its about time we built the platform for them - they are our future, they’re not just a number, they’re a human being. With someone to believe in them, they can thrive to become anything. 7 | Suffolk and North East Essex Integrated Care System

Volunteering Matters provides mentoring for young people leaving care across the UK. The I Will Movement is a national movement of young people that are leading grassroots, hyperlocal change across the UK, through a variety of different forums. It was set up in 2013 and is the vehicle through which Ipswich declared itself the first town of youth social action and is concentrating on young people driving improvements in Place. Stephen introduced a young person from the I Will Movement, who’s social action is around health and social care, and does a lot of campaigning related to mental health. Young people have said that this is all about connection and belonging, and what is meaningful is the millions of little things that happen every day in communities; it’s not interventions, it’s not sectors, it’s place and young people are making these connections every day in their community. It’s only community that can actually drive this change. Stephen Skeet, Volunteering Matters My name is Zeze and I’m a care leaver. I’m aged 22, I’m an #iwill Ambassador and I have lived experience of mental ill health. I was in care from the age of 14 to 18, and it was shortly after my 14th birthday that I ended up in a residential children’s home. I had adverse childhood experiences which meant that I was taken away form my mum and dad. My mum and dad did an exorcism on me which left me really traumatised: It made me suicidal, and the trauma ended up making me psychotic - I could hear voices and see things and was really paranoid to the point that I was getting aggressive with people. I was put into care and shortly afterwards was struggling with my mental health. Being in care was an extremely chaotic experience: I’d be surrounded by other young people who also didn’t want to be alive. There was a girl in the room next to me who I would hear shouting all the time and was constantly on 2:1 to stop her from smashing windows or banging her head. There was another girl who hit another resident with a metal pole - she ended up getting arrested and the other young person had to go to hospital. Another young person used to throw herself down the stairs. I was surrounded by chaos. I ended up having worse mental health and psychosis. The environment I was in was not conducive to my recovery and I ended up becoming psychotic and needed to go into hospital for a section 3 [of the Mental Health Act]. I was in and out of hospital for the four years I was in care. I was on a Community Treatment Order, which meant that if I didn’t take my meds that would take me back into hospital and inject me with medication. I was really unwell. A lot of my journey was really traumatic. I’d be restrained for hours at a time, with maybe 5 people on top of me, and sometimes restrained by the police. I’d end up really suicidal and falling unconscious, needing oxygen. I would take overdoses which meant I would be in the Intensive Care Unit for weeks. My biggest was a 60 tablet overdose, where I ended up in a short term coma. I would tie ligatures to the point that I wasn’t allowed to wear my own clothes for 2 weeks and had to be in special non-rip clothes the whole time. When I first entered the mental health system, I was first on a general adolescent unit and then in Zeze, I Will Ambassador Please note you may find some of the issues discussed distressing. Thinking Differently Together | 8

a high-dependency unit, then psychiatric intensive care, and finally a secure unit in Wales. I’m from Birmingham, then I was placed in Sheffield - all of these crazy-far places, and I had no understanding of the geography around me. When I was in my 5th psychiatric admission, my home was the children’s home, but the commissioners who paid for my ‘bed’ said they would stop paying for my bed in the home as I kept going in and out of hospital so much. Nobody told me this. During my 5th admission they stabilised me, injected me with medication that dealt with the psychosis and voices so I was ready to go home. It was only at that point anyone told me I didn’t have a home to go to - I’d been ‘kicked out’ they don’t want you and can’t manage you. I was left without a home. I then had a bit of a meltdown - I had nowhere to go to after hospital - I was estranged from my parents, I don’t have a residential children’s home, and it would take at least six months to get another placement and the funding agreed. I have nowhere to go and nobody wants me. That feeling of nobody wants me made me significantly more unwell. I stopped taking my meds again, and ended up in the secure unit. Things got a lot worse - I would swallow objects, meaning that I had to go to A&E. All the self-harm that I did was so much worse than the other times, because this time I had nothing to lose - I had nothing. That’s the tricky part of my journey, but I made a decision to get better when I was in my secure unit, because I had people around me who broke down my walls. I found it really difficult to trust anyone, but these people in the secure unit said to me that ‘no matter what your behaviour is, we are going to keep you, we can manage your risk. We’re not going to let you kill yourself, or be unwell. We will stay with you ‘til the end and if you don’t get better then when you turn 18, you’ll go into adult secure’. My choice was either life, or hospital for the rest of my life. I chose life. I ended up doing long term therapy and got better. I decided to take charge of my care because I knew it would take a long time for me to get back into the community, get housing sorted and get into supported living, but I wanted to take ownership of my care so I bossed around all the professionals and told them I was going to go back to Birmingham and a less secure unit so I could get used to normal life again. I wanted to get used to being able to use a kettle without supervision, not having so many locked doors, having normal metal cutlery and ceramic crockery. I had been used to this really restrictive, small world and I wanted to get used to normal life. At the less secure unit I did something absolutely transformative: I ended up engaging in social action. I decided that I wanted to be for others, what my past-self had needed. I wanted to be able to change services and make them better for other young people so they wouldn’t experience the amount of trauma that I went through. I spoke to the CEO of the Birmingham unit and she found £4.6 million pounds to change the whole ward structure after I told her that the ward wasn’t fit for purpose. She used the money to renovate the whole hospital, and I had to go on the BBC to ‘cut the sod’. I ended up lecturing at universities about being a care leaver and mental ill health, and I helped with the nursing and social work courses. I went on to work at The Institute for Mental Health as an expert by experience, advising on research and charitable mental health work. I helped a campaign called ‘Fight for All the Feels’ raise £1.2 million using GymShark as a sponsor. I ended up receiving a Diana Award and a British Citizen Award, I gave a TED talk - I achieved a lot. It was social action that kept me in the community - if it wasn’t for that I’d probably still be in hospital. Social action is the golden thread woven into the tapestry of my life, and of my recovery. Helping others helped me. Empowering others empowered me. What social action gave me wasn’t just the act of making a difference; it gave me a community, it gave me and anchor that kept me anchored into the community. It wasn’t really the social action that it was about - it was about having connection. There was a youth worker called Bob, and he was the first person to speak to me about wanting to do social action. He visited me in hospital, and I developed a therapeutic relationship with him - he’s like my big brother now. Every time I had a relapse, he would talk to me and calm me down. What he gave me was a felling of being rooted, the feeling that somebody had my back - that feeling that I belonged. 9 | Suffolk and North East Essex Integrated Care System

I went from not feeling safe anywhere in the world to being able to feel safe with Bob, and with Dr P. Dr P was one of my doctors when I was in hospital and wanted to go to a social action conference. None of the other staff would take me because they thought I was too high risk. This doctor said ‘it would be good for my professional development, let me come with you. You can speak at the conference, and I can listen’. Dr P facilitated the space for me to be able to use social action - she gave me that sense of emotional safety. Dr P and Bob gave me the sense of feeling emotionally safe. It made me realise that maybe I didn’t need housing the whole time - when I was kicked out of my children’s home, maybe I didn’t need housing: maybe what I needed was the people around me to make me feel like I had a home. Being in such a complex and chaotic environment really shaped my view of relational safety. It wasn’t the social action itself that helped me, but the therapeutic relationship I built from it that helped me. I call myself a ‘positive disruptor’ - or a good troublemaker. Sometimes it’s not the intervention that works, it’s not the therapy or medication; that has a place but, actually it’s the people. It’s people that get people better. It’s people that support others to build that life worth living. Bob helped me build a life worth living; and here I am now, a charity founder and CEO of my own mental health and autism charity. Services are massively overwhelmed with referrals, and in demand. Don’t put funding into services, put funding into people. Put it into Youth Workers, to embedding and fostering a sense of social action in services. That is where you’ll get the most positive recovery outcomes and better patient experiences. Don’t put your funding into the medications or the biggest psychiatrist. Often, it’s the support workers and youth workers who spend the most time with young people. The key message I want to give is that no matter what your role is, whether you’re a commissioner, a doctor, a nurse, an admin person, work to be someone’s anchor. Don’t have a system that’s based around interventions and length of stay or appointments, have one based on relationships that have been made and whether trust has been created. No matter what role you have you can still make a difference. I want you to imagine the scene of a young child riding their bike on a Summers day, carefree, smiling and just enjoying life. Now imagine a child just being denied this simple pleasure. For the last 15 years I’ve had the privilege of helping 42 children turn their frowns into smiles through the power of fostering. I just want to share some of the experiences I’ve had during this remarkable journey. Being a foster carer has taught me invaluable lessons about empathy, resilience and the power of love. When I first embarked on this journey I was filled with a mixture of excitement and apprehension. The decision to become a foster carer wasn’t made lightly: I had a young family, I was a single working mother, but my children were excited at the Lyndee Oscar, Foster Carer from North East Essex Experiences as a foster carer Thinking Differently Together | 10

prospect of more brothers and sisters and having exciting times to share with them. I clearly remember the nerves I felt when I entered my first placement entered our home. Would they like my house, my cooking my room - us? This was overcome by having the joy of the opportunity of making their lives and memories happier. I have experienced the incredible joy of nurturing 42 children who have come from difficult backgrounds. Some were with us for weeks, some for months and some for many years. Watching them grow, learn and flourish has been immensely rewarding. The best moments are seeing the children settled and blossoming with the excitement of living: clubs, school productions, cycle rides, walks, playing ball in the park, holidays, cooking and baking - they want to do all of them, and all at once. However, fostering hasn’t been without its challenges: There have been times where the motivation is low, the anxiety high, the uncertainty sits in the middle and the trust just floats around everywhere. There have been moments of frustration, heartache, and tears as we’ve navigated the complexity of their past experiences and emotions. Essex County Council’s fostering team offer a holistic and extensive therapeutic training pathway for all foster carers, which helps calm the choppy waters along the way. Subjects ranging from neuroscience, connection and loss, play therapy, eating disorders and reflective therapeutic parenting are covered. We even have easy access to an in-house mental health coordinator. Being equipped with these practical training sessions, regular support and social worker supervision, I have never felt alone during tough times, day or night. Despite the challenges, witnessing the positive impact on the children I have fostered has been truly remarkable; from small victories like moving from not wanting to attend school to 100% school attendance awards, sleeping and eating well, to significant milestones such as graduation, Jack Petchey Awards, scholarships, moving to independent living, creating fund-raising projects for children in hospital - each child has left an indelible mark in my life. Its humbling to see them overcome adversity, find their voice and embrace their potential. Throughout this journey I’ve come to realise the importance of support and community. Whether it’s the invaluable advice from social workers, the unwavering support from fellow foster carers or the understanding of friends and family. I’ve been fortunate to have a network of people rallying behind me every step of the way, importantly developing meaningful relationships with schools, birth families and external agencies such as the NHS, St John Ambulance, sports clubs, forest schools - it’s like having an extended family. Essex County Council’s fostering team have their own Children in Care Involvement Team that holds regular exciting events such as an annual event ‘My Life’ festival, care leavers dinner and chill, ‘Proud to be me’ which is a regular diversity enhancement activity, and junior adventure days. They offer such diverse opportunities to foster resilience, radiance, readiness and reason to stimulate growth and the repair of challenging pasts in this unpredictable world. There is a highly supportive Essex Foster Carers Association too. Above all being a foster carer has taught me invaluable lessons about empathy, resilience and the power of love. Every child deserves a chance to thrive, regardless of their circumstances and it has reinforced my belief in the transformative impact of compassion and kindness. I want to express my gratitude for the opportunity to serve as a foster carer for the last 15 years - 10 years with Essex County Council. It has been a journey filled with ups and downs, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world. My life has been blessed with knowing each of the 42 young people, and it has been a real joy to still be in contact with them many years later and seeing them achieve their goals. It’s an amazing feeling. To anyone considering becoming a foster carer, I do urge you to take that leap of faith. Your impact can be profound and rewards immeasurable. I loved being part of their world and helping them re-write their success story. 11 | Suffolk and North East Essex Integrated Care System

Question: Phanuel you work in the community with lots of youth groups; What’s your view from the outside, as someone who’s connected to the youth within the borough you work in? Phanuel: We work with education, and we also do quite a lot of work with the Police, in terms of public scrutiny of the work they do, and we do quite a lot of work in prisons. One of the things that I’ve noticed is that when you look at the outcomes of young people growing up in care, in education we see the disproportionate amount of school exclusions and the challenges that schools are going through in getting support for those young people. When we work with the police, in things like Stop and Search and some of the work done on recruitment into gangs and related vulnerabilities, we see again a disproportionate amount of young people from care backgrounds. Tomorrow I will be at a prison in Suffolk working with the men there - again you see a disproportionate amount of young people from those backgrounds. My reflection is that we are part of a system that is failing these young people. It’s been great to hear about some of the positive outcomes and experiences at this event. What we didn’t get to hear is some of the sort of stories I will hear at the prison - people that are where they are because of the poor experiences they’ve had. Question: Ed, I was really touched to hear that that one visit you made inspired you, and opened up your eyes to something that you admit you didn’t know an awful lot about. How important do you think it is that people understand the real experiences of those who’ve been through the system? Ed: It’s fundamental to good leadership - you can’t lead if you don’t understand what you’re trying to deliver and the impact that it could make. It did have a big effect upon me. It’s difficult sitting on this panel after all of those powerful speeches, and as a reflector I’ve been inspired by listening to those honest accounts - thank you. I think looking at the people who can make a real positive difference here. I was privileged to meet James Timpson, of Timpson’s shoes recently. He said before he took over the family business, he spent a year visiting really high-performing organisations around the world. They all shared two qualities of Trust and Kindness. He has approached his business thinking about how you can role model that and spread it. What that looks like is that 1 in 9 of his employees are ex-offenders, and he says that those people are the most loyal members of his workforce, they progress quicker within his business and they are the most honest - people that come through other routes are less honest. That is a leader who is thinking differently about social issues and social justice. He is enabling a lot of young people to change their lives through his leadership. I am reflecting on what can I do as a leader and be more like that after hearing these issues. Question: Julian I was really interested to hear when you said that you were cross about early intervention. I’m involved in early intervention and everything we do about that is based on the premise of ‘this stops here’, and I think there is nowhere near enough work done with families of children either at the edge of care, or care experienced parents to revisit the trauma and find out where things got tough and work out how to fix that going forward. Does that sound to you like the right sort of early intervention? Julian: I think with a lot of shared opinions on this from speaking to young people around my age, early intervention, for whatever reason, just doesn’t seem to stop there. It doesn’t seem to do ‘what it says on the tin’. In my example, we had early intervention for 7 years before we got to that point where I was taken into care, and a lot of other young people I have spoken to have that shared kind of story. I know there are restraints in the system, but in my honest opinion I don’t think it meets needs currently. I think there are a lot of restraints and struggles, but we don’t know what goes on behind closed doors, so you are told stuff and things are painted up to look a lot better when you walk through that door. The minute you close that door, the same thing happens. I think it Panel discussion: Phanuel Mutumburi, Ed Garratt, David Akinsanya, Julian Brown and Lyndee Oscar Thinking Differently Together | 12

needs to be a lot more about how can we engage with the young people away from the home setting to really establish what’s going on. I know many times I went into school and I was trying to speak to teachers about what’s going on, and they think because you’ve got people coming in that everything is fine, and it’s not, it’s really not ok. Question: I come from a lived experience background, and spent four years in a children’s home and about 4 or 5 years in a boarding school that was funded by social services. I had a very positive experience, supported by love and kindness in the children’s home all the time, but at 15 it still didn’t prevent me from spending a number of years in a chaotic time. At the age of 18 I entered into the NHS, which provided a further education, it didn’t particularly help me with some of the mental health support I needed. Are there going to be opportunities within the health system HR, where people like myself who have had such a rewarding career in healthcare could give something back? Ed: I think that would be a great offer and a great thing we could consider. The power of role modelling and giving back would be something I’d love to be able to think about more systematically - it creates a virtuous circle, rather than a vicious one, so I am keen on that. It’s important that young people see what they could be. Comment: The things that we see the most in terms of our mentoring programmes for care experienced young people is the importance of building life long networks and relationships that sustain throughout transitions. There is a whole community of people locally who are supporting young people, even though they don’t necessarily realise that’s what they’re doing - but they are building assets, connections, and sharing skills. We will go around this cycle again and again, but there’s something for me about driving the narrative around community and that everyone is in this - all these children are our children and we should view it in that context. Question: David you talk about the importance of going above and beyond, and Lyndee, I know the extent to which you and your family go above and beyond to provide that environment. I’ve heard from Julian that that is often what looked after children are looking for - someone to go above and beyond. What stops that happening? How can we make it the ordinary? Julian: The biggest thing is seeing a young person as a young person individually. There’s a lot put on the collective - what is the care community like, what are young people in care like and looking at the statistics, but it’s actually about person-centred care. It’s about really looking at an individual and seeing what their needs are; how they reciprocate your love, and your trust and their environment. What works for me won’t work for someone else. Each young person is an individual. I think fostering is amazing, and when we as young people grow up we realise how much of your lives you are giving, and how you are allowing us to be a part of your family and your home and giving us a leg-up. I think it’s very much about seeing a young person as they are and trying to establish how you both can make your environment work. These children come with trauma, with different aspects of their life and whatever has happened for whatever reason. For me, I wouldn’t go into a home with a male foster carer but I managed to get myself to a home with arrangements that felt safe and comfortable for me. It’s about seeing every individual and their needs, without a prejudgement based on what has been read about them. Get to know the child. Phanuel: I think that’s a really important point. Thinking about some of the opportunities for young people living here is important, and for those people offering support to be cognisant of the person-centred support that is needed. The number of times that we’ve seen people failing when they get these opportunities, just because we assume that giving people opportunity is enough, and not realising some of the experiences and traumas that they have gone through. It’s important that we give people opportunities but let’s also be aware that extra support is needed to make them a success, as otherwise we are setting people up to fail. 13 | Suffolk and North East Essex Integrated Care System

Jennie explained that her role is around preventing young people from being exploited into gangs and drugs activities in the first place, and what can be done to protect those already heavily entrenched it from further harm. This affects children as young as 8, who are actively involved in running drug lines. More under 10s and children from primary schools are being targeted now. Jennie explained how she organised a pilot in Southend, where the children and young person’s officer had highlighted the lack of knowledge and awareness of exploitation there among staff in children’s placements. This pilot will be replicated in north Essex, where there are concerns about the lack of mandatory training on this issue. A recent OFSTED report showed that sexual and criminal exploitation isn’t mentioned at all in information on any of the 8 standards that placements can and should provide. Exploitation is horrifyingly described as ‘offending behaviour’ - it doesn’t reflect the experience of young people being victims, and in some cases, suffering horrific abuse, trauma and trafficking. Jennie Read, Force Gangs & Drug Lines Officer, Prevent & Protect, Serious Violence Unit of Essex Police Vulnerable to Crime 3. Understanding the story - How Growing Up in Care Can Make you Vulnerable Without training we can’t expect the staff to recognise the signs and behaviours? There has to be more opportunity for staff in placements to receive appropriate training and guidance, and be more traumainformed so they can assist in preventing further traumatisation of young people. We have to ensure that children feel they are safe, and free from further harm. As much as the physical and psychological and emotional safety of children is at the centre of all of this, equally important is the appropriate support for the staff. Stereotypical assumptions mean that children in placements are seen as a perfect choice for groomers, recruiters for gangs and exploiters. There is no single stereotype of a victim to exploitation. They don’t see race, they don’t see culture, they don’t see religion or gender - what they see is vulnerability. Every single child is at risk of exploitation. Gangs are now targeting a lot more of the ‘clean skin’ model: ‘Clean skins’ are those who are not known to the police, are not in care, are not known to the statutory services, do well at school, do necessarily have financial struggles - the very ones that can sit under the radar with a clean record. ‘Clean skins’ are being used to target children in care placements as well. High turnover of staff, and some staff with either none, or minimal, previous experience. Of the staff representing smaller providers (around 65% of homes according to OFSTED) 73% are experiencing staff shortages and difficulty with staff retention, which is a key factor. Thinking Differently Together | 14