Allen steals the show at Labour Party conference

We’ve had a busy week (and weekend) at the Labour Party Conference. Action for Children staff have been meeting politicians and attending events. Most importantly, we talked to everyone about how we can achieve our big ambition.

Our big ambition

Our ambition is that all children and young people are able to reach their potential. For us, this means supporting vulnerable children and families early, before problems reach crisis point.

There was certainly a buzz about early intervention running through speeches and discussions at conference this year, not only in education but also areas like justice and home affairs. In his speech, the Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls said a future Labour Government would “look to prioritise early intervention now, which can save billions of pounds in the future.”

We also spoke to MPs about our calls for a national strategy to tackle child neglect and better support for young people leaving the care system.

Out of care, now where?

Our highlight of the week was, without doubt, our fringe event, jointly hosted with colleagues at Barnardo’s. Out of Care, Now Where? brought together MPs,councillors, conference delegates and the children’s charity sector to discuss some of the challenges and solutions for young people leaving care and moving to independent living.

 But this was no ordinary conference fringe event.

The star of the show was a young person called Allen, who joined us for the day from one of Action for Children’s projects designed to support young people leaving care.

In the weeks running up to conference season, we spoke to some of the young people who use our care leaver services, particularly Allen and his friends, about what the biggest challenges are when you have to leave care and what things they really need.

They told us that they want decision-makers to step into their shoes – so that’s exactly what we asked guests at the event to do. Each table carried out their own workshop and collectively came up with recommendations to feed back to the Shadow Minister.

Allen shared some of his thoughts and experiences, in a powerful introduction with our Chief Executive Sir Tony Hawkhead. He really got people to think about the problems.

Steve McCabe MP, Shadow Minister for Children and Families met Allen and shared Labours views. This included the need to make support more consistent for young people, so they can build sustainable relationships, and extending the choice to stay with their foster carers to residential care. Mr McCabe’s favourite recommendation from the room was an idea for a ‘care covenant’, entitling young people who have been in care to longer-term additional support from our public services.

The panel didn’t get to stay in their seats for long. They circulated the room joining in each roundtable discussion and reflecting on people ideas.

We said from the beginning that people shouldn’t need to be experts in this policy area to be able to take part in our event. Everyone was able to share their ideas from the perspective of young people who experience leaving care. The feedback from guests couldn’t have been more positive.  

Next stop…

The Labour politicians have put away their final speeches and guests have left the city of Manchester in peace. For Action for Children’s Policy and Campaigns team, it’s round two on Sunday as we head to Birmingham for the Conservative Party Conference and round three in Glasgow for the Liberal Democrats the week after.

Watch out for more of our conference coverage!

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