21/02/2020

NI Charity Advocates For Youths Growing Up In Care

A local charity is calling on the United Nations to officially designate Care Day as the International Day of Care Experienced People to support children and young people who are or have been in care.

Voice of Young People in Care (VOYPIC) made the call as the world's biggest celebration of children and young people with care experience gets underway today, Friday 21 February.

The charity partnered with other organisations to issue the joint request on the UN's Care Day, an official occasion to help support and promote awareness of children living in care.

Some 3,281 children are in the system in Northern Ireland, according to the most recent Department of Health statistics.

The region has now reached its highest amount of children in care since the introduction of the Children (Northern Ireland) Order 1995.

The Department's Children's Social Care Statistics for Northern Ireland also shows that four-fifths of those were in foster care placements (79%) while 11% were placed with parents, 6% in residential care and 4% in other placements.

Care Day 2020 in Northern Ireland will champion these young people while creating awareness of those children who have experienced care.

The first Care Day took place four years ago as a joint initiative across five leading children's rights charities working with care experienced children in the UK and Ireland. They are VOYPIC, Empowering People in Care (Ireland), Become (England), Voices from Care (Wales) and Who Cares? (Scotland).

These organisations work together as the Five Nations, One Voice alliance and this year, to mark its fifth annual Care Day, are collectively calling on the United Nations to designate Care Day an official International Day.

According to the UN, "international days are occasions to educate the general public on issues of concern, to mobilise political will and resources to address global problems, and to celebrate and reinforce achievements of humanity."
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Each international day offers opportunities to organise activities related to the theme of the day. Organisations and offices of the United Nations system, and most importantly, governments, civil society, the public and private sectors, schools, universities and, more generally, citizens, make an international day a springboard for awareness-raising actions.

Alicia Toal, Chief Executive of VOYPIC, said: "We believe that children and young people in care deserve to be celebrated by the UN and its member states. As an alliance, we call upon the United Nations Ambassadors from the United Kingdom and Ireland to propose to the UN General Assembly that Care Day be adopted as the International Day of Care Experienced People."

Events will take place across Northern Ireland today, celebrating children in care, under the overriding theme #REIMAGINING, and will set out to challenge stereotypical perceptions of life in care.

It will culminate with a talent show at the Waterfront's ICC where young people from across Northern Ireland, including those currently engaged with VOYPIC, will perform a captivating talent show. Since Christmas, groups of young people from Belfast, Bangor, Ballymena, Lurgan and Derry/Londonderry have been working with professional artists to prepare a special performance for the show. Talents include singing, dance, drumming and circus skills.

Alicia Toal, continued: "Care Day is an excellent initiative that allows the incredible young people we work with, and indeed all care experienced young people, to take centre stage and inform the world about what that care is really about.

"It challenges everyone to take some time to rethink what they think they know about how children are cared for in Northern Ireland. Young people we work with have told us that many people don’t have a very positive image of care and children in care. Some think that children in care cause trouble or don’t do well at school. We need to challenge those myths.

"On Care Day, we show the world that this isn’t true. On Care Day, we celebrate the talents, achievements and identity of the many young people in care who inspire us all, from right across Northern Ireland. To have this event made more official by the UN would make our message a louder one and give those people living in care the support they deserve."

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