Fatima Whitbread – Reeling For Rights

In February, award winning, Care Experienced, Olympian Fatima Whitbread, MBE came along to our Carelidh to celebrate Care Day 2024. We managed to grab a quick chat with her about care, her past, and her own movement, Fatima’s UK Campaign. First published in Spring 24 SpeakOut.

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How did you hear about Who Cares? Scotland?

I was with the advisory group, as a member of the John Lewis partnership, and was invited to come to the Communities That Care Conference in 2023. I’ve been following Who Cares? Scotland ever since.

It’s in alignment with what I feel and being in the care system myself for 14 years, it was quite close to my heart. So that’s why I like to support people where I can. 

What made you want to represent 
the Care Experienced community?

As a Care Experienced person myself, I’ve been an advocate for children for a long time and noticed that not a lot has changed in 60 years. Many people, good people, are working on the ground floor level, but they’re scattered all over the place. I’m trying to rejuvenate the care system sector by using my lived experience and my platform to bring awareness and education and to try and get rid of the stigma which comes with living in the care system. For me, it’s all about building nicer, happier lives, better communities and a kinder early intervention from a very young age, to build better foundations for them, and improve their life outcomes. By not serving a good purpose, sometimes the care system impacts young people in a negative way. I think we need to change that.

What was it like growing up? 

I was terrified from the age of eleven. I started getting worried because I didn’t get on very well with people in the children’s home. I used to look after the youngsters, and calling out injustice didn’t make me very popular; they couldn’t wait to get rid of me! 

That’s what happens when you’re Care Experienced; you’re constantly fighting for your rights, and you become a little bit feistier. You don’t take ‘no’ for an answer, you like to call people out.

When did you realise that you wanted to help other Care Experienced children?  Was there a turning point when you were growing up?

Auntie Rae.  She would come in and look after the children. I called her the tickle monster because I used to hide under the bed sheets in the morning and I wouldn’t want to get up until she woke me up and she’d tickle me, and I’d know that the day had begun.

One day I asked her if she would be my mummy, and she took me aside and said no, she had to be mummy to all of the other children too.  She told me that she wasn’t always going to be there, but I could be there for the others when she’s not.  That was a major game changer for me.  It taught me that in giving, you receive.  If I looked after the other children, calling out any injustice and giving them the love and support they need, they would give it back.

Tell us about Fatimas UK Campaign.

Part of Fatima’s UK Campaign is to work collaboratively with ministers; with people both in and outside of the care system who want to help on the ground level, as well as in business; there are lots of opportunities in the Business Sector.

We want to make sure that from the minute a child comes into care, they know that there’s an infrastructure that serves them properly and that when they’re out of care it stays, and that it helps them beyond that.  Make sure that it’s not just survival that these kids are going to have to learn, it’s also the opportunity to thrive as well. Yeah, I guess it’s a very big challenge, but at the same time, I always like a challenge.


Have you seen any changes?

People are starting to talk more amongst themselves – ‘What can we do to help?’. And this is important; it’s all about education and bringing it into the modern world.  Make sure that these kids are no longer invisible.  

We don’t want kids being moved, because what they need is stability. They need continuity. They don’t need to keep being moved around and shunted about. I mean, losing your family is bad enough, let alone being taken away from everyone, your school, your mates.  Your education is being affected because the curriculum is different in different parts of the country. And generally, they need stability and having positive people that stay in their lives, that can help guide them as role models when they need them. That’s what it is about, really, continuity. They need that in their life.

Why did you start using your platform to speak about the care system?

I feel that I can get the message out there; it’s harder to get people to listen and support you when you don’t have the media or a larger following behind you. Talking about my early days is quite empowering and it also empowers others to come forward and talk about theirs.

I think by collaboratively doing that, we can achieve a lot more.


We have a copy of ‘Survivor: The Shocking And Inspiring Story Of A True Champion’ by Fatima Whitbread to give away.  Send us a DM if you’d like to be in with a chance of winning!