Thanks to the overwhelming response to #ITSINTHEBAG, we were to be able to support young care leavers at their Christmas lunch. The poet Lemn Sissay, who is himself a Care Leaver, started the first Christmas Dinner in Manchester in 2013. Each year the project has grown and this year there were 10 events across the country. Each community comes together to care for those who might otherwise be alone on Christmas Day.
For this group of vulnerable, self conscious young adults, a seemingly normal bag of essential toiletries and grooming products can make a difference to their self esteem, well being and health. And luxury items like perfume, aftershave and make up are special treats to someone who has very little or nothing at Christmas.
Can you remember how many times you or your adult children came back home in their twenties, or got help and support through a tough time? Somewhere to crash when a relationship broke up. Money to help with the first car. A shoulder to cry on when things just seem too much. There are so many things we take for granted from our families, which are a natural part of the support that young adults need as they set up their first home and begin to make their way I the world.
Having a safe and secure place to live is something that most of us take for granted. For care leavers this can often seem unattainable; their first adult struggle following a disrupted childhood. The reality of ‘home’ for care leavers can be harsh: damp or run-down flats, stressful shared housing, unaffordable utilities, loneliness, worry and debt. Some struggle with the practical problems of how to pay bills and cook for themselves. Others face eviction, sofa-surfing or even sleeping rough. According to the National Audit Office one third of care leavers become homeless in the first two years immediately after they leave care.
In the UK, there are about 10,000 care leavers annually. Young people leaving care are some of the most vulnerable young people in our society with over 62% having been taken into care due to abuse or neglect. Through no fault of their own, many care leavers will have lived in more than 20 different foster placements and children’s homes by the time they leave care. Many of the brightest will leave care with no educational qualifications because of the amount of disruption in their young lives.
As we go into 2019, please add toiletries into your weekly shop to help us to continue to support this vulnerable group of young people.