I’m going to talk about my life on national TV

Ashley reflects on her experience taking part in the new STV documentary 'Who Cares?'

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On Tuesday 20th of September, at 8pm, STV will broadcast the documentary ‘Who Cares’. Four members of Who Cares? Scotland, including me, have participated and talked about their lives. You can watch the documentary live on the night or on the STV Player.

That means I’m going to talk about my life on national television.

Throughout my time as a care experienced campaigner, people have asked why I talk about my experience of the Scottish care system so publicly. People have wondered out loud to me about why I feel the need to speak about something so personal. For me, and the care experienced people I know, the answer is simple – we want change. Change that will lead to the care system guaranteeing young people who have experienced neglect and abuse love. Change that will mean young people have relationships in their lives that don’t have a cut-off date. And change in the way society thinks about young people in care, because it wasn’t our fault.

When I was in care, I felt like no one understood me. I was bullied at school and felt like I didn’t belong. When people asked if I was in care because my parents didn’t love me, I couldn’t answer. In reality, the life of someone in care is always up for public discussion – at school, at children’s hearings, as part of a storyline in Eastenders. A lot of people get an opinion on how we’re behaving, what mood we’re in and what we will (or won’t) achieve.

Young people are taken into care because we are not receiving the stability that we should be getting at home with our parents. Despite this, I was moved around frequently. Sometimes that was planned but more often, it happened suddenly. My belongings were put in bin bags and squashed into the boot of a car.  That went on for the majority of my time in care, especially when I was younger.

My care journey didn’t provide me with the love, support and understanding that I needed to make a success of my life when others in my class at school were.

Talking about my experience of care always makes me reflect. It brings up a lot of emotions and memories. After telling my story, I often sit and wonder if it will truly make a difference and affect other people enough to want to take action. That’s the only reason I do it.

When I spoke about my life at the Scottish Parliament, I felt the same way. I was determined that it wouldn’t just be met with warm words and sympathy. I wanted the MSPs that heard from me and other young people to do something. They did. Our stories, our honest testimony changed the law and young people in care now have the right to stay in care up to the age of 21 and can be supported up to the age of 26. It’s too late for me but it’s not for the 15000+ in care right now.

The terrible outcomes for young people in care remain a challenge to Scotland. This isn’t just about those delivering care – it’s about the whole of Scottish society waking up and realising that they have a role to play. We’ll only change things if everyone comes together.

That’s why I’m talking about my life on STV, to the biggest ever audience that care experienced people have reached. Each of us that has taken part hopes that through this documentary that you will understand us better and the life we face after we leave care.

We are not bad people now and we weren’t bad children then. What happened to us was not our fault, yet we are made to feel like it is. To make the care system a truly better place for young people in care, we need your support.

I want people to realise the positive impact that having a strong, long lasting, loving relationship with a significant other can be for those of us who grow up in care.

I want everyone to understand that although there are good people determined to make it work, the care system struggles to deliver this most basic need. A basic need that could help us understand who we are, the journey we have been on and guide us to where we would like to be in the future.

For young people in care now who watch the documentary, I hope you realise how strong you are. I hope that from watching this documentary, you understand that you are not alone. Your care family, our movement of change, is here for you, to listen, to love, to care and to support you.

One thing I know is that together, we have more power than I ever imagined possible. I was only able to take part in the documentary because I knew I had the strength of our movement behind me. I hope it shows you that the strength of our movement is behind you too.