South Scotland MSP, Claudia Beamish, has added her backing to Who Cares? Scotland’s Christmas Dinner for Care Leavers.
The event, organised by young people with care experience, is part of a campaign to ensure that no one that grew up in care feels lonely this Christmas.
After leaving care, often at the age of 16, young people can sometimes find themselves moving into their own tenancies with little support and no sense of belonging to the local community. For many young people, Christmas is a time when they are reminded of the love that they do not have.
The dinner will bring young people from across Scotland who would otherwise be alone in hostels, bed and breakfasts and their own flats together in one place to have dinner and fun. So far, members of the public from across Scotland have donated over £1500 to make the Christmas Dinner a success and donations can be made to https://www.justgiving.com/whocaresscotland/.
The campaign against loneliness comes after the Scottish Government has made it law that young people will have a right to stay in care until the age of 21 and a right to better support up until the age of 26. Who Cares? Scotland believes that if these rights are realised, they will make a huge difference to the issues that lead to young people feeling isolated and alone at times like Christmas.
Claudia Beamish MSP said: “Young people who spend time in Scotland’s care system often report feeling lonely or anxious at Christmas time. This campaign is about sending a message of hope and I am delighted to add my support.
“It is inspiring to see young people who have been through the challenges that care leavers face, working to provide support to others who are going through the same things.
“Across Scotland, there are many young people who will be alone this Christmas. We need to come together to send a message to these young people that we all care. Changes to the law to expand access to care are a welcome step forward.”
Ian Lamond, a care experienced campaigner said: “After leaving care, Christmas was really difficult – I felt I didn’t actually belong anywhere. Last Christmas I visited family members but it’s really hard. I find I don’t know what to say sometimes and I keep it into myself to save upsetting anyone. I know my Mum struggles at Christmas. All this adds pressure to how I feel and it makes Christmas a difficult time to deal with.
“This year I am really looking forward to spending Christmas with other young people who understand how hard this time of year will be. This is a place where I feel I belong and there is no pressure to be anything other than myself.”
Tam Baillie, Scotland’s Commissioner for Children and Young People said: “It’s hard for any of us to imagine being entirely alone at Christmas, let alone at the age of 16.
“Young people of this age are still developing in so many ways and it’s a heavy burden to bear, to be catapulted into independence and adulthood, and having to take on responsibility for looking after yourself after leaving care.
“We need to see a genuine shift away from the expectation and culture of young people leaving care at 16 or 17, towards local authorities actively promoting young people’s right to stay in care.
“I share the hope that the inspirational young people behind this campaign have - the change in law that allows young people to stay in care up to the age of 21 is a very positive move.
“This change in the law will need to be backed by clear Government guidance and additional resources so it has a genuine practical impact, and delivers on the promise. It is a matter of urgency that we raise the average age of leaving care in Scotland, so that fewer vulnerable young people have to take on that responsibility at such a young age.”
Figures consistently show that young people brought up in care are more likely to suffer from mental ill health, more likely to be homeless, and more likely to suffer periods of unemployment. 4,500 people have already shown their support to young people in care by signing the Who Cares? Scotland Pledge 2 Listen. To pledge to listen to children in care, please visit the website: http://www.whocaresscotland.org/pledge/