Today’s guest blog comes from Cabinet Member for Women, Children and Families, Helen Godwin.
Yesterday evening Mayor Rees and I attended the second annual EPIC and STARS Awards. It’s likely that you have never heard of this awards ceremony, but it is one of the most important nights of the year for us and an event we are proud to have launched in 2017.
The EPIC and STARS awards celebrate the achievements of some of Bristol’s children in care and care leavers. Bristol City Council is the ‘corporate parent’ to over 600 children who are in care, and has responsibilities towards almost 450 young people who have left our care.
We take Corporate Parenting extremely seriously at Bristol City Council, and I am delighted that this was recognised by OFSTED during their recent inspection of Children’s Services, whose report noted that “the local authority ensures that the views of children and young people influence how services are delivered. The Bristol corporate parenting strategy and the Bristol Pledge to all children in care and care leavers, developed in collaboration with children in care, are visible and accessible for children and young people, with clear targets and actions that are tracked within the corporate parenting panel”.
The circumstances that lead to children coming into care are complex. There is no standard case and no two children or young people coming into care are alike. Each has their own story to tell and sadly sometimes these involve experiences of violence, abuse or neglect. Those coming into care are amongst the most vulnerable in society meaning we need to offer a better, safer childhood and the opportunity to succeed and thrive and to be celebrated. Just as we would all want for our own children.
My social media feed is full to bursting with proud parent posts, and rightly so. The EPIC and STARS Awards are the opportunity for Bristol to say a collective well done to children in our care. The awards celebrate young people who are achieving great things at school and in their education. The highlight their successes in sport, art and drama as well as recognising those who are already making an invaluable contribution to their community and city; and of course super -siblings who offer the best support of all.
As always it was an emotional evening, with foster carers and social workers looking on with great pride as we heard the stories of personal development and determination.
This event cannot happen without the support of our sponsors – organisations from across the business, education and voluntary sectors across Bristol. Their commitment to celebrating young people in care and care leavers motivates the young people to continue to work hard, focus and follow their dreams. Bristol should be a city where everyone can succeed, and where there is true equality of opportunity. We want our EPIC and STARS nominees to know that that their city is on their side and we all recognise the role we can play in supporting them.
The vast majority of children are placed with foster carers in family homes. However, many of our foster carers are nearing retirement age, and the city needs to recruit more carers. In my view it is the most important job in the city, and we are working hard to ensure that our foster carers feel like the VIPs that they are. If you would like to find out more about fostering contact the team.