The outstanding achievements of Somerset’s children and young people were celebrated at an awards ceremony at Taunton Rugby Club on Tuesday 25 July.
The event, which was attended by celebrated author, poet and care leaver Lemn Sissay OBE, was organised by care experienced young people from the Somerset In Care and Somerset Leaving Care Council (SiCC and SLCC).
Young people were praised for their enthusiasm in learning, reading and in lessons, their performances in school plays, music and sports, and the contributions they’d made to their communities through volunteering.
Lemn Sissay OBE’s inspirational speech
Lemn Sissay, who spent his entire childhood in care, was an inspirational speaker at the awards. As part of his speech he drew attention to our fascination with fostered, adopted and orphaned children who are at the heart of many our greatest cultural works: Harry Potter, Superman, Cinderella, Batman, Heathcliff, Jane Eyre, Moses, Luke Skywalker, Frodo Baggins, Aladdin, Mowgli, Tarzan, Snow White, and many more. He also made reference to a list of ‘incredible UK people who were fostered adopted or in children’s homes’ and emphasised that care experienced people can and do make important contributions to culture and society.
“Children who don’t live with their parents are at the heart of many of our greatest stories.”
Lemn said: “Children who don’t live with their parents are at the heart of many of our greatest stories. So many of our stories feature children running away from home, but what we often don’t realise is that children run away because they want to be found. I ran away because I wanted to be found.”
Children and young people celebrated
The annual award ceremony highlighted the inspiring achievements of 377 Somerset children and young people in care and care leavers, who were nominated by Somerset Council social workers, leaving care workers, schools, and other Children’s Services professionals. Young people from SiCC and SLCC welcomed guests, made speeches and presented awards.
Each year, children and young people are celebrated across two age groups – 0-12 years and 13+ – and five categories: Personal Achievement; Education, Training and Employment; Helping Others; the Somerset Safeguarding Children Partnership award for Courage; and the NHS Somerset award for Positive Pastimes.
Young people also nominated their workers and teachers, recognising excellent supportive care, passion, dependability and kindness. One young person commented that their Leaving Care Worker had “put more effort and time into me, my feelings and my mental health than anyone in my whole 21 years of living.”
Tessa Munt, Executive Member for Children and Families at Somerset Council said; “It was an incredibly moving event, and was a powerful reminder of the unique value of our amazing children and young people. They are Somerset’s children – and it is a privilege to love and care for them. Love is the key word here – it is what all children need most, and we should all treat every child like our own. It does take a whole village to raise a child.”
Lemn was presented with artwork made by members of SiCC and SLCC. Lots of fun activities were also available to entertain the young people, including a bouncy assault course, balloon animal making, mocktails (alcohol free cocktails), a magician, a photo booth, music, and more.
Care leavers and every young person in care automatically have the right to be a member of SiCC and SLCC ensuring those living in care or care leavers have a voice about the things that matter to them and help shape the services that they use.
This event came a month after Somerset Council, Shaw Trust and the NHS in Somerset celebrated winning a prestigious Municipal Journal (MJ) Award for a partnership project delivering children’s homes across Somerset.