“I knew about the NSPCC before I met my advocate Tony*. I’d seen their TV adverts and knew they helped abused children but I’d never heard of their advocacy service or how they could help me.
“I’ve been in care since I was 12 years old. My first social worker Nick* was amazing; he took time to get to know me and cared about what I thought. He’d come and visit me every week for no other reason than to just say hello and make sure I was ok. Unfortunately Nick was replaced after 6 months and that’s when my trouble with social services started.
“I was introduced to Tony when I was 14. Tony works for the NSPCC and is my advocate. That essentially means he’s my voice in meetings and makes sure that my worries and concerns are heard and dealt with. My first foster placement was with a foster carer called Cathy* who I got on really well with. I lived with her for 3 years in total. Tony helped me with an issue with my family when I was 14 and living with Cathy. We were able to resolve the issue and I didn’t need Tony’s help for a little while until things with Cathy soured and I wanted to leave.
"I felt ignored by my social workers and like I didn't have any power or say in what was happening in my life."
“I felt ignored by my social workers and like I didn’t have any power or say in what was happening in my life. I had made a complaint against Cathy, which I felt wasn’t being listened to or acknowledged. Looking back I admit that although the foundations of the complaint were true, I’d also exaggerated parts because I was really angry. Me and Cathy had fallen out and weren’t getting along and didn’t want to live there anymore. Tony listened to me and helped me request a new foster placement, which was arranged.
“I went through 4 foster placements and a Children’s Home in the space of a year. The foster placements were awful and I didn’t get on with any of my foster carers. The first foster carers I lived with were heavy drinkers.
“I lodged a complaint with my social worker about their drinking and how I didn’t think they were suitable to look after children but Social Services wouldn’t tell me what had been done about it. Because I had made the previous exaggerated claim against Cathy it wasn’t taken seriously, even though it was completely true. That’s when I needed Tony’s help and he made sure that my complaint was taken seriously. Without Tony I don’t think anything would have been done about it.
"Tony helps me navigate the care system and offers me advice on how to get things done."
“Each time things went bad with a foster placement, I called Tony. He made sure my opinions were being considered. Tony helps me navigate the care system and offers me advice on how to get things done. Rather than shout at social workers, he helps me to write letters to make things official so I’ve got a record of things I’ve asked for or complaints I’ve made. He says if it’s in writing then it’s harder to ignore it. If I had an important meeting coming up, Tony helped me plan what I wanted to say beforehand so I felt prepared.
“Tony and I didn’t always agree on the best path for getting things done. I liked to shout at my social workers and he would explain why that wasn’t the best thing to do. I felt if I didn’t shout and didn’t get angry then they wouldn’t take my concerns seriously. It was positive for me to know that throughout the whole process and all the issues I had, Tony was on my side helping my opinions to be heard.
“After my last foster placement ended, my social workers decided that it would be best for me to live on my own. I was placed in a flat a week before my 17th birthday and have lived on my own ever since. When I was approaching my 18th birthday, I was worried I was going to be removed from my flat and that I wouldn’t have any support if I had problems. I spoke to Tony about my concerns and together we spoke with my social worker and requested extra support after my 18th birthday. Social Services acted really quickly and responded to my requests and I’m really happy with the outcome.
“I’d say to any young people living in foster care who have complaints that have gone unheard, or worries that aren’t being addressed or aren’t getting on with their social workers that they need an advocate. Ring the NSPCC. They need someone like Tony fighting for them. Having Tony’s support has helped me gain confidence.”