Looked After Children: Improving Life Chances
- 08:30 - 16:30
- Manchester Conference Centre
Emma Lewis – Biography
I was officially taken into care at the age of 9 – it had been apparent to them that I had taken care of myself for far too long – My care notes state that I was pretty much left alone since I was a baby for long periods of time and from memory I had been pretty much self-reliant since I was about 4 years old, often taking a knife to school so that I could climb the ledge and wedgy it open when my Mother and step father were out drinking, I would steal toilet roll and beg for food just to survive. It was during my time at home with my parents that I not only suffered neglect and physical abuse, but also sexual abuse and our local authority had offered all the support they could to keep me at home and it was appropriate to put me into care.
Being in care was quite distressing; I was always of the belief that I wouldn’t be there long and I would end up going home, sadly that wasn’t to be. My education had also greatly suffered, I had been too busy caring for my parents to worry about my learning, and when things got too tough, I simply didn’t go to school and therefore fell way back in particular subjects like mathematics. I sadly adopted the same approach in secondary school, exceling at very little and sadly leaving with only two GCSE’s. During this period my Step Father died at the age of 36 – he suffered a stomach haemorrhage as a result of his alcoholism.
I started volunteering in 1997 – upon leaving school – simply because I had no transferable skills and because technically I had no option under the New Deal benefits scheme. I was fortunate to be placed in a third sector organisation in Pembrokeshire who were exceptionally patient of me and taught me the transferable skills that I needed to get into employment – again it was during this period I moved out of my Foster home and started trying to live independently with varying success. I suffered loneliness and isolation, I had poor budgeting skills and formed unhealthy and dependent relationships. It was in this period of my life that I had re-established with my Mother after my Fathers death, but sadly three months after our re-connection - she too died in a horrific accident where she accidently set herself on fire suffering third degree burns to 78% of her body.
With crucial support of the community and key members of our local village – I was taken care of – I was invited to Sunday dinners, so I no longer trawled the village shop or pub in the hope people would invite me for a cup of tea. I was offered accommodation, a part time job and as a result my confidence and self-worth started to grow. I gained employment as a Youth worker with Pembrokeshire County Council , gave birth to my Son and then moved my family to Swansea. Since then I have worked in many different organisations within the third sector in Swansea including:
• Minority Ethnic Women’s Network (MEWN)
• Communities First
• Ty Fforest Community house – where I was supervisor and community worker for 10 years.
• I was also appointed last September as the Welsh representative for the victims and survivors consultative panel for the Independent inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse – the largest and highest inquiry in the U.K. which was created and instructed by the then Home Secretary Theresa May.