Vivian's Blog 9 January 2014

Thursday, 09 January 2014 14:29


9 January 2014

Let’s change the story for vulnerable care leavers

I’m sure many of you share my reaction of great distress and horror to this week’s news report from Derry of the prosecution of a man for the physical and sexual abuse of a young woman who had lived in care.

We made a public response to this news and called for a greater focus on the support needs of young people in care getting ready to leave and move to adulthood.

This particular report makes for very distressing and disturbing reading but the sad reality is that it is not likely to be an isolated case and there are other young people experiencing abuse, if not as horrific, just as damaging.  We have to make support of children and young people in care better. A critical point is when a young person is preparing to leave care to live independently. We know that this is a particularly vulnerable time in their life and the system is still failing some young people.”

This case brings our attention, once again, to the serious issue of the sexual exploitation and abuse of children and young people. Protecting them is everyone’s responsibility and is the focus of the current inquiry being led by Kathleen Marshall. Yes, we know that there is excellent work going on with children and young people in each HSC Trust and certainly, policy and practice have improved over recent years. But this inquiry is our shared opportunity to learn from what has happened in the past and to develop and improve systems and supports to prevent the terrible mistreatment and abuse of young people.

We want inquiries and reviews to do more for victims of abuse but again, this case highlights the need to recognise and understand child exploitation and abuse and to focus on abusers. Abusers are responsible for targeting, grooming and abusing children and young people most at risk and need to be held to account, like this week’s case, through our courts.

As distressing as this case is, reviewing it will offer real insight into what has failed young people leaving care in the past. I urge the inquiry team to consider what they can learn from this case about particular vulnerabilities for young people leaving care and what is needed to protect those who are most at risk.