‘We’ve been given a voice’: Campaigners win protection for people in care in Camden

Lemn Sissay, Cllr Nazma Rahman, and Terry Galloway. Photograph: courtesy Terry Galloway

Campaigners are celebrating a victory for equality after Camden Council agreed to make care experience a protected characteristic in the borough.

Councillors last night voted unanimously for the change, which is designed to tackle the stigma faced by vulnerable people.

It means those in care and with past experience of care will have the same protection from discrimination as other characteristics under the Equality Act.

Author and broadcaster Lemn Sissay OBE, who grew up in care, made a powerful speech to councillors, asking them why the care system was “hurting instead of healing”.

He said granting the protected characteristic was about “acknowledging our struggle” and making sure “no-one feels lonely again”.

“Let’s use the word ‘love’ in action in our corporate parenthood,” he urged the council, which currently has around 200 young people in its care.

The council also agreed to provide free wifi to all care leavers in the borough up until the age of 25.

Other speakers included campaigner Terry Galloway, who had lived in 100 different places by the time he was “spat out” of the care system, and those working with young people in care, including Barnado’s assistant director Rod Weston-Bartholomew.

Weston-Bartholomew said young Black people in care experienced double the discrimination due to being in care and because of the colour of their skin.

Galloway told the Citizen that people who have experienced care are “hurting, they are dying, and live shorter lives than any other group”, and that most people are “oblivious” to their pain and suffering.

He continued: “This motion means our voice is going to be heard in areas of the council that don’t even know we exist. When they hear our voice they won’t be able to help themselves reflect onto their own families what we go through.

“When they compare us to their own children, they will be moved to think of better ways of doing things that can drastically improve the lives of care experienced people. Because in the main, people do care and that’s what this is about, putting the love back into the care system.”

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