Even if they have a roof over their heads, youngsters coming out of the state’s care face the adult world years earlier than their peers, sometimes at the age of just 16. Without a family home to go back to for Christmas, this adult world can be a lonely place.
Happily, there is a network of events organised for care-leavers to celebrate at together, just as a family would. Sarah Wilkinson, of the social business Catch22’s National Leaving Care Benchmarking Forum, will be volunteering at an event in Hackney in London on Christmas Eve.
For young people whose families are absent, it can really exacerbate feelings of isolation.
“Christmas is traditionally a time when families get together, so for young people whose families are absent, it can really exacerbate feelings of isolation. For some it can also bring back memories of a difficult childhood,” she says.
“There are superb events being organised up and down the country, such as The Christmas Dinners, specifically for young care leavers aged 16 to 25. These events combat isolation and cultivate a sense of community and belonging between young people and the volunteers who run them – making it a day to remember for the right reasons.”
Ishbel Holmes is care-experienced. She found warmth and welcome at a Christmas dinner in Glasgow organised by charity Who Cares? Scotland. This is what it meant to her.
Christmas without family is really difficult to experience.
I used to have Christmas dinner with friends and their families, but I stopped that as I’d always end up in the bathroom, hiding the tears that were rolling down my face at witnessing what having a family is like at Christmas. It was better for me to spend Christmas Day alone. But this year was different as I would have my dog, Maria by my side.