Alicia started working at VOYPIC in 2002, as the Volunteer Coordinator. Over the past 21 years she has held a range of positions across the organisation and was appointed as Chief Executive in 2019.
How did you start working at VOYPIC?
I was working for another organisation in the sector and I went to a training session that was being facilitated by VOYPIC. It was being delivered by – yes there was the regional director of the organisation – but the main trainers of the session were two young people. They led it and it was about their views and experiences of care and what adults could do to make that experience better and be more respectful of their rights. And that was in the early 2000s. I liked that.
That was what appealed to me. It was very forward thinking for the time, you know, and a bit challenging having young people stand up and tell us as adults what needed to happen. And I really liked that. There was something that really spoke to me about it. So then, probably within a year or so I saw some jobs being advertised with VOYPIC and I thought actually, if I was going to move, that’s the type of organisation I’d want to move to. And that was really what piqued my interest.
Why did you want to work at VOYPIC?
So when I saw the jobs advertised, there were a couple of different roles. The one I went for was a volunteer coordinator and it was about getting young people involved in making a change for children in care. So out of the three roles that were being advertised, that was the one that appealed to me, so I applied for that. And then once we got into VOYPIC we realised that there weren’t as many young people engaged in the organisation and that’s when we kind of shifted what that programme was about and developed the participation programmes that we have today.
What do you hope to achieve with your time at VOYPIC?
One of the major and quite immediate things is with the Independent Review of Children’s Social Care Services. There’s an opportunity now to really make transformational change and really make life better for children and families, and make sure that they’re getting the right help at the right time. I suppose some of the things that young people want to see changing have been issues that have been going around for years and we haven’t really grasped it and haven’t made real change for young people. I think now, with this review, hopefully it will be implemented, because it is such a widespread systemic reform programme and we have an opportunity to really make a difference across all children’s services. So, I want to see that be successful.
And, for VOYPIC itself, I want to see us returning to being youth led. I think we can have a youth led organisation where our board of directors and our leadership team have more care experienced people in it, so that they are actually leading the change that they want to see for themselves. I’d like to see that. I also want young people in care to see this organisation as their place and to be able to have a voice in the organisation, in how it’s run and how it develops.
One of the overarching things I want to see is that we really get to grips with the stigma that’s around care. I think we are making great strides but I think, when we get to a point where children and young people don’t have to explain themselves and their situation or feel embarrassed or ashamed about it, then we will know that we have raised that widespread public awareness. So we do a lot of work with young people and people who work within the care system but actually beginning to impact the public and change their perspective and outlook on care and actually just know more about it would be good.
What impact do you want to make with VOYPIC?
Well, immediate impact, we want to make sure that children and young people in care are safe and if they’re not or if they’re unhappy or concerned about anything, that they can get help straight away. One of the things that I think is really important to have real impact is that everyone needs to know about the rights of children and respect and uphold those rights.
One of the things about impact that we want goes right back to what our mission is and if we could achieve that, our job is done. And really we want every child in care to feel safe, to feel valued, to feel loved and for them all to go on as adults and thrive in adulthood, and have very successful lives. That’s ultimately what we want but it will take a lot of change and a lot of work to get there.
If you had to describe VOYPIC in one word, what would it be?
A word I always use is mighty, because we are a small to medium charity, but we do a lot of good work. And I like to think that we have a lot of impact in individual young people’s lives. I also think we’ve brought about change for all young people in care over the years. So small but mighty.