Christmas can be a particularly tricky time of conflicting emotions for young people who have grown up in care. Our work across CASCADE has highlighted over many years some of the barriers that care-experienced people can face when leaving care. They are twice as likely to report feeling lonely most or all of the time than other young people in the general population. Many of you who work with care experienced young people will see this day in and day out.
Across the UK, programmes run where volunteers, known as ‘hosts’, come together to provide Christmas dinner and a celebration for care-experienced people. But, so far, this has never happened in Wales. This year, that will change.
A group of hosts with knowledge of the needs of care-experienced young people are working together to ensure that fewer young adults in the Cardiff area will be alone on Christmas Day. The hosts come from research centres at Cardiff University, and a range of charities including Children in Wales, Voices from Care and NYAS Cymru. Some of the hosts have experience of foster care or residential care and understand how difficult the festive season can be.
J. aged 20 from south Wales said:
“I always went to my nana’s for Christmas but since she passed, I never know. I have been to an ex-foster carer’s a few times but she hasn’t asked me yet this year so I may end up on my own on Christmas Day. I would hate that, especially as I am struggling for money at the moment.”
Lorna Stabler, a Christmas Dinner ‘host’ and a research associate in the CASCADE research centre at Cardiff University explained:
“When young people reach 18, they still usually live at home with their parents, and have a place to return to for events like Christmas. For lots of reasons, care-experienced people don’t always have that base – and can sometimes end up feeling like an afterthought, that they are intruding on someone else’s celebration, or with nowhere to go. We want to put together a Christmas Day event that is really special, and celebrates the wonderful care-experienced community here in Wales.”
Sally Holland, a Professor of Social Work in the CASCADE research centre at Cardiff University added:
“‘I will never forget meeting a young adult who told me how they spent the Christmas period after leaving foster care on their own in a bedsit, frightened of noises in the night and not knowing how to deal with a leaking tap. Many foster carers do an amazing job welcoming back young adults they cared for in their past, but not all are able to. I would never want my own children to be alone at Christmas and that’s why I’m volunteering with the Cardiff Christmas Dinner.”
The dinner and activities are inspired by similar dinners in a range of English cities. The movement was started by the renowned poet Lemn Sissay, who has written extensively about his own experiences of growing up in care. As the Cardiff Christmas Dinner will be the first Welsh dinner, the hosts hope that, if it is a success, they will be able to support similar Christmas Day activities in other parts of Wales in the future.
Care-experienced guests, who would otherwise be alone on Christmas Day, will be invited from a 30 mile radius of Cardiff and transport will be provided for them. They will receive gifts, dinner and the day will be filled with fun activities. You can refer young people by filling out this expression of interest form.
The volunteers are raising money for the event, with funds raised being managed by the registered charity Voices from Care. They are also on the look-out for a caterer and high-quality gifts and decorations for the event. Anyone wishing to help can email firstname.lastname@example.org