Young campaigners make call for Northern Ireland to be better place for young people in care

Published on
07 October 2022

Group of young campaigners calling on local leaders for young people in care system

A group of young people supported by Barnardo’s NI Leaving Care service, have developed a manifesto of asks for decision makers in Stormont, to make the care system in Northern Ireland a better place for them and the future generations of children with care experience.

These young people have all grown up in the care system and because of the experiences they’ve had and are still having, they’re now campaigning for real change. They want long lasting and permanent changes to be made to the care system in Northern Ireland, to ensure that all young people have access to the same resources and support, as their peers in the rest of the UK.

Young campaigners

Their manifesto called ‘What About Us’, includes asks around better access to safe and affordable housing for young people and making sure that young people leaving the care system have access to support, up to the age of 25.

Helen is one of the young people who developed the manifesto, she said: “It feels like Northern Ireland politics doesn’t care about care and it’s time that things changed for young people with care experience.

“The issue of housing is a huge one for us, as young people leaving the care system, we’re at an increased risk of homelessness and of being exploited because we don't have a safe place to live.

“There just aren’t enough options for safe and affordable housing for young people in Northern Ireland and moving us into hostels is not an option.

“The waiting lists for social housing are just getting longer and longer. To get private rentals, landlords favour people who are in permanent employment and can provide references and guarantors.

“Young people leaving the care system often don’t have someone who will act as guarantor for them, so it’s a vicious cycle.”  

Carla, another young person who developed ‘What About Us’, said,

“Decisions are being made about young people, without young people and that’s something we really want to change.

“We are supposed to be able to access support to the age of 25 and that just isn’t the reality of what is happening. I stopped getting support at 21, because I was considered to be independent.

“A lot of young people in the care system are really worried about what will happen once they leave their supported accommodation. They just don’t know what support they might get – it could be none.”

Trasa Canavan, Senior Policy & Public Affairs Lead at Barnardo’s NI, said:

“We're happy that the Adoption & Children Act 2022 extended support to care leavers up to the age of 25, however we need to make sure that legislation becomes a reality, and we need these changes to be actioned as soon as possible. 

“Our young people aren’t asking for the world, they’re asking for achievable and minor adaptations to be made, to put them on an equal footing with their care experienced peers elsewhere in the UK.

“In order for these young people to see real change and progress on their manifesto asks, we urgently need our politicians back in office and we need them to prioritise making the care system a better place for children and young people in Northern Ireland.

“Barnardo’s NI, along with our children, young people and services, have been engaging with the Independent Review of Children’s Social Care Services led by Professor Ray Jones, to help ensure that the Review leads to real change for the children and young people of Northern Ireland.”

To view the manifesto developed by young people click here.