I phoned the office of my local MP, Quentin Davies and after some discussion, arranged an appointment to meet him several weeks later.
The secretary asked me what it was about and I explained that I was a member of the committee, for the CLA, a national charity run by care leavers for care leavers. I went on to explain that I wanted to meet him to show him who I was and tell him all about us. I briefly explained the fact that I had spent nearly all my childhood in care and was passionate about the rights of care leavers. The secretary was very encouraging and instantly set up an appointment to see Mr Davies.
I felt quite proud of myself. After all I had never arranged an appointment to see my local MP before. I had only seen his face on the cover of the local journal campaigning for local issues over the years, but I had never met him and he wouldn’t know me.
After the initial euphoria, I then began to think about what I was going to say to him to grab his attention and get listen him to me! I pondered this for some weeks and then just before my meeting with him I felt I would use the passion I have for the subject and with some prepared notes and bullet points. This would make sure I didn’t loose direction, ramble, and ensure I said all I wanted to say during the meeting and had no regrets about things I wished I raised with him afterwards. This was the best decision I made. I wrote down topics I wanted to raise and then numbered them in order of which I felt was the most important.
The day of the meeting, I was a bit nervous. In fact, I was very nervous and was constantly going over things again and again. Then I thought, ‘he’s probably going to be just as nervous as me’. After all, he would be meeting me for the first time as well. That somewhat relaxed me, after all I am a care leaver and I can do anything.
I left my house in plenty of time for my appointment, as I was still unfortunately still on crutches after a recent knee operation. I went into the entrance of the local council offices cafe where I made my grand entrance on crutches up several steps, only to be met by some tall gentleman saying, ‘are you here to see the local MP?’, to which I responded that I was indeed.
I was behind a couple who spent some time with Quentin so I was around 20 minutes late going in. I spent this time going through things one last time. His assistant was very nice and I began to relax more and I decided that I was going to enjoy the experience, which I did.
I was ushered into a small room and I was met by Quentin with a smile and a firm handshake. I introduced myself as Christopher Simpson from the Care Leavers’ Association. I prepared myself with my notes, past Grapevine issues, and Care Leavers’ Association pamphlets. Thanks for those Victoria!
I started by telling Quentin something about myself: I entered into full time foster care when I was around four years old, but had come to the attention of the social services some years before that. I gave him a brief overview of my foster ‘career’, so to speak. Then I finished by saying that when I left care in 1987 I left with £5.80 and a pep talk from a social worker which was not very good. I had been left without any support or aftercare. I then told him that I had always been fighting for the rights of people in care, or care leavers. Speaking out in my life whenever the subject came up. I explained that I have also spoken to potential foster parents about what it was like to live in care.
I told Quentin that I had become aware of the CLA in 2003, when there was a care leavers’ week on the BBC and that I had joined sometime after that.
I then gave him the history of the Care Leavers’ Association: when we were formed; the fact that we have charity status now and have CLA and a CLR websites both up and running and expanding into different areas.
I told Quentin about our aims and ambitions for the future, which he was interested in, especially the Access To Records campaign.
I said that access to my records was very important to me as it enabled me to access some of the facts that some people would rather be forgotten, or not talked about, or completely glossed over by people with a vested interest. Quentin agreed!
I said we, CLA, often go down to parliament to take part in the debate concerning people leaving care. Quentin said that the government was active in this area to try and improve the life chances of care leavers.
I told him about our purpose, our mission and our vision, which again he agreed with.
I finished the meeting by giving him several issues of the Grapevine, a National Care Leavers’ Week 2006 booklet, some credit size cards, and some Care Leavers’ Association pamphlets.
He finished by thanking me for coming and said if there were any issues that I wanted him to raise then I was to contact him without hesitation.
During the whole presentation I gave to him he constantly asked questions and gave his opinion on myself and the CLA. He was very complimentary on both.
We finished the meeting by having our photograph taken together and then we shook hands and I thanked him for seeing me.
As I left the offices I thanked his assistant and I noticed that I had been speaking to him for around half an hour so I DID ENJOY it after all and I felt I had made some difference.
- Chris Simpson, 2007