Following her thought provoking and emotional talk from last year, we catch up with Laura Beveridge to find out how her TEDxGlasgow experience impacted her life and those around her and what she’s been up to since. Here’s what she had to say…
This time last year I was applying to be a TEDxGlasgow speaker. This platform was a chance to give people the chance to be part of the care experienced movement. The TEDx talk gave me the chance to share not just my story, but our story, the story of care experienced people.
By joining Who Cares? Scotland I felt a real sense of belonging; meeting other care leavers I could talk freely about where I came from and was met with understanding and empathy rather than shock or sympathy. Care experience is something that isn’t in general discussion and can be largely misunderstood, I gave an example of this at the start of my talk. Many years went by where I hid who I was because I was scared. Scared of the reaction people might have to my care experience. Even as an adult, happy in my life, hiding my experience is something that has this chipped away at my self-esteem. Meeting other care leavers and care experienced staff at Who Cares? Scotland made me realise that I didn’t have to be afraid of sharing who I was, because I am not on my own with this experience, I am part of an incredible community of people that want to make change happen for children and young people in care now.
We don’t want young people to face the same stigma and discrimination that we did. I have shared my story in a very public way because I want it to be in the public consciousness, giving people real examples of what care is, what it feels like and ultimately challenge the stigma that surrounds it.
The year 2016 was an incredible one and it all started with TEDxGlasgow. Stepping out onto the stage at the Theatre Royal was one of the scariest things I’ve ever done, so was owning my care identity. 2016 was the year I stopped being scared because this cause is so close to my heart and I wanted to do everything I could to help change care for the better. The nerves, fear and emotion that I felt, had to be put to one side for that eight minutes!
Right up until the moment I started to speak on that stage I was a bag of nerves. As I walked into the Theatre Royal all I could see was an overwhelming sea of people and a room filled with excitement and enthusiasm. I had to go and find a quiet room just so that I could stay calm. I was appointed an amazing volunteer called Aarron who really helped me keep my cool and assisted in the lead up and after the delivery of my talk. The TEDxGlasgow community is so welcoming, supportive and it was all so well organised that all I needed to focus on was my talk.
Just before I started to speak I took a deep breath and put my fears to one side. As soon as I started speaking the words just flowed out, because I was speaking from my heart. This wasn’t about my nerves or how I felt, it was about the care experienced movement. This is the story that I’ve kept hidden for years and that was the day that I didn’t let fear win. It was liberating.
This was just the beginning. In September 2016, I went on to take part in the STV documentary Who Cares alongside four other care experienced people. This experience was amazing because it gave us a chance to meet the First Minister of Scotland at Bute House in Edinburgh and we asked her to be part of this movement. As our most senior Corporate Parent I asked her to leave her care experienced children a legacy. And, on the 15th October 2016 I stood alongside my care brothers and sisters at the SNP party conference and heard her announcement of the root and branch review of the care system. We had finally been heard.
This meant the world to each and every one of us that stood at the conference that day. It meant that those days of living out of bin bags, living in institutions, surviving loss and living houses without love weren’t for nothing, they meant something. Those experiences could be used to help children in care now and in the future. Our stories are testament to what needs to change. Each one of our stories carries an important message and has answers to those big questions about what works, what children need and what isn’t working in our care system.
No child should live in a system. They deserve a loving home, just like any other child in the world. The Who Cares? Scotland 1000 voices manifesto that received cross-party support has also been championed by the First Minister, who has also pledged to listen to 1000 voices of care experienced people. This review is a world first, because the changes that are made will be led by the care experienced voice.
The talk has reached so many care experienced people and many have reached out to me because of it. I now see so many people are embarking on their own journey of owning their care identity which is simply incredible. Seeing people own who they are and become much more empowered is what this was and is all about. I believe that empowerment is key. If children and young people have a shared story to connect with it shows them that they are not alone and that they have a community of people they can connect with. The biggest change that I’m seeing now is that the care experienced people are really being listened to in a meaningful way and love is part of the discussion.
The TEDxGlasgow talk I did has been shared widely across the sector and has been positively received, which is staggering. It is now a key learning component of the Masters of Science in Youth Care Studies at the University of Strathclyde, which gives students and professionals real insight into what care can feel like and gives them the biggest message that when children are loved they have hope.
I am now leading the Who Cares? Scotland Alumni of Care leavers that is reaching out to care experienced adults that want to use their experience to make a difference to the lives of children and young people in care now. Every time I meet a new member it feels like meeting long lost family because of our shared experience. It is truly incredible to see members embarking on their own journey, using their voice to make a difference.
It is my hope that one day we will see more care experienced people stand on that red circle! It really can make a difference. I’m just one example of that.
Interested in following in Laura’s steps and speaking at TEDxGlasgow 2017? Find out more here and apply now.