A renowned poet and children’s rights campaigner was on hand to offer a unique insight into how to support and empower young people in care.
Lemn Sissay MBE was the guest speaker at the annual Raising Aspirations for Young People in Care Conference at Teesside University.
Held in partnership with NERAP (North East Raising Aspirations Partnership), the conference is designed to bring practitioners together to talk about the issues facing looked after children and how to improve their life chances and progression.
Lemn, who himself grew up in care, started the Christmas Day Dinner in Manchester, a community initiative to care for care leavers on Christmas Day.
He said he was honoured and humbled to visit Teesside University and speak directly to social workers, foster carers and educational staff about the barriers facing looked after children.
“It is a privilege to come here and share my insights and perspectives in front of a group of people who are in the caring profession,” explained Lemn.
“I have been talking to incredible people who are working with incredible children and I would not want to be doing anything else.
“It means a lot to me to be able to tell my story. Events like this are extremely important for us to come together and remind ourselves how incredible children are and about the vital roles we play in helping to shape a positive future for the young people we work with.”
As well Lemn Sissay, the Conference also saw sessions held on mental health, sexual exploitation, youth justice and alternative models of education.
Abbie English, Recruitment and Admissions Manager at Teesside University, said: “We were delighted to welcome Lemn Sissay to this event. His enthusiasm and exuberant delivery was a fantastic ending to an extremely positive day.
“Lemn spoke from the heart about his own personal experiences and how care providers can help to shape the futures of young people – both in terms of their education and career and their personal development and well-being.
“Teesside University is passionate about widening participation and this annual conference provides a fantastic opportunity to work with a wide range of support professionals to raise the aspirations of care leavers.”