Lockdown has become a defining moment for our society. For those of us experiencing a less chaotic pace of life, we have become increasingly aware of the more vulnerable members of our society.
One such vulnerable group are care leavers. These young people have left care, whether this be a foster family or a children’s home. At a young age they are moved out to live alone in hostel-type accommodation or council flats. Local authorities have limited resources, so are only able to visit them when it is absolutely essential.
It is hard to imagine young people being left alone and isolated, especially as young people across the country were rushed home from university to be brought to the safety of home. Despite being the same age, care leavers are often estranged from their families, meaning their support network is limited. They do not have the usual parent and family safety net to fall back on that so many of us take for granted.
I spoke to Georgina Mellors, a passionate volunteer for young care leavers in South West London comprising of Richmond, Kingston, Hounslow and Twickenham. A group of individuals got together in September 2017 to organise “The Richmond Christmas Day Dinner” for 50 care-leavers. This has become an annual event for care-leavers to join together on 25th December to celebrate the joy of Christmas surrounded by other people.
When the current crisis started this year, it became clear that the volunteers needed to step in and support their guests. I asked Georgina what they have done so far for the care-leavers:
“Currently we are fundraising to buy supermarket vouchers for essential food and toiletries and activity packs to send out to ease boredom and boost mental health.
We have also received great support from DLA (Dons Local Action, a collaboration of AFC Wimbledon/AFC Foundation, Old Ruts Sports Club and Merton Mutual Aid) who have been supremely kind in delivering countless food packages on our behalf.”
Many of their supporters have been generous with their current cause, but they need more funding to get out supplies to all of the care-leavers and continue to provide this support at such a challenging time.
Georgina estimates that they will need to support around 120-150 care leavers across the three boroughs.
“Many of the young people we need to help have to rely on benefits and food banks and have little or no support from family. Many food banks are at stretching point currently, or understandably ring-fenced for the Government’s registered vulnerable people, so accessing their usual support systems is proving difficult.
As such, we are already working hard to get food packages out to them on a weekly basis for the duration of the emergency and supermarket vouchers where/when possible.”
Lockdown can be a very isolating time for many people and can have a negative impact on mental health. Georgina explains that as a result, they have sent out “a wish list of activities and treats so that they can choose one ‘Lockdown Present’. It will show them that they are supported and thought of. The presents currently on offer are colouring/art packs, gaming vouchers, Netflix subscriptions, model making and craft kits as well as wellbeing packs to help combat anxiety and loneliness.”
Coming together as a community doesn’t mean you have to be on the front line or out delivering food. You don’t even need to leave your house.
By donating money to a cause, you are showing someone out there that they should feel a little less alone. These young people may not have the safety net of a family, but they sure do have dedicated volunteers and a community who see them.
Through the act of giving, show them that they are visible and that you care.
Share this page and the Just Giving link on your social media to help raise as much as possible: https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/supporting-care-leavers-covid-19?utm_term=8WwjMV8DA
If you want to see “The Richmond Christmas Day Dinner” for more information on their annual cause, check out their website: https://christmasdayrichmond.com/