National Director: David Graham : Policy, media, finance, strategy, fundraising –

National Director

Young Person’s Project Coordinator: Carrie Wilson-Harrop : All work related to Young People’s Project; issues of young people leaving care, advice and information for care leavers, advocacy support, trauma and how it affects those with care experience, media, policy –

Young Person’s Project Coordinator

‘Connecting the Invisible Community’ Project Worker: Toya Dunscombe

I grew up with having a social worker for my entire childhood. I was in and out of emergency foster care until the age of 11, when I asked if I could leave my family home because things just got so bad, I was then taken into permanent foster care and separated from my siblings. I then left my foster home just before the age of 18 to go to Plymouth University, where I studied to become a Primary School teacher. I always say that without my care experience I don’t think I would have ever broken that cycle in my family and become the person I am today.

I have always had a passion for supporting children and young people in making them feel safe and heard. When I heard of the Care Leaver’s Association, I felt excited about wanting to give something back to my community, share my experiences with others and to also share some compassion and kindness.

I am now going to be working on the ‘Connecting the Invisible Community’ Project, which recognises the unique challenges faced by many care leavers over the age of 25 and aims to foster a sense of community, belonging, and empowerment by supporting them to connect, share experiences, and access resources that can help them navigate life successfully.

‘Connecting the Invisible Community’ Project Worker: Terri-Anne Hamer

As a mother of three, a kinship carer, and a care leaver, my life has been marked by instability and uncertainty since my entry into the foster care system at just six months old. My mother, who was a young care leaver herself, suffered from post-natal depression after giving birth to me at the age of 17, resulting in me spending much of my childhood as a young carer for my siblings. We were all taken into foster care together when I was 13 years old, but after a placement breakdown, I was separated from them. 

Leaving care at 16, I became one of the many “hard to reach, easy to ignore” young people, rebelling against everything. However, what I really craved was a connection to my siblings and a sense of belonging. To find purpose and connection, I started peer mentoring at school and volunteering in youth clubs. 

When I had my first child, Kaemon, at 24, I finally found a sense of purpose and responsibility. Had I not become a mother, I might have gone down a different path of poor choices driven by loneliness, isolation, and a lack of connection to my community and family. A year later, I became a kinship carer for my little brother, which gave me a sense of validation and respect for the role I had always played in his life. Inspired by him, I went on to earn my BA in youth and community studies and an MSc in criminology, despite not being entitled to the same support as other care leavers due to my age. As a 32-year-old, I used the obstacles as motivation to succeed. 

During the pandemic, I established an advocacy service to support young care leavers, which has been incredibly rewarding. However, I still felt like something was missing after volunteering and working locally for five years. So, I became a football coach and set up a team of 89 girls, using sports to engage and support young people in a different way. 

Then, I saw an opportunity to join the “Connecting the Invisible Community” project with the CLA (Care Leavers Association). The loss of my mother last year forced me to confront the challenge of accessing my files to demonstrate our estrangement. As her next of kin, I became responsible for a portion of her debts, but retrieving my earlier files has been an ongoing challenge due to my time in the care system in Liverpool and Leeds. Through this experience, I realized the importance of advocating for the ability to access and navigate files with proper support at the right time. 

I am passionate about this project and its goal of creating a safe space and community for care leavers like me. I want to offer support, answer questions around identity, and provide access to opportunities for participation in society and with peers. By being a part of this project, I hope to make a real difference in the lives of older care leavers and create a more supportive and inclusive society for us all. 

‘Connecting the Invisible Community’ Project Worker: Will McMahon

I went into the care system aged 6, in 1969I was youngest of five who were split up by the time I was 8. I spent 13 years travelling between children’s homes, sibling care, assessment centres, a military boarding school and two foster care placements. I lost count of the number of moves that I made before leaving care at the age of 17, when I was given a grant to live on and rented a room in the house of a friend of my older sister.  

After accessing my care files in 2005, I discovered that from birth to 17 I had moved 20 times. I was lucky enough to have an exceptionally good social worker, Elaine Bristol, who made an enormous difference to my teenage years, including placing me with Pip and Bill, my foster parents, and their children, who were lovely and accepted me into their family. 

I first joined the Care Leavers’ Association in 2005 when I decided that I wanted to access my care files. I was chair of the organisation from 2007-11.  I have worked in the voluntary sector for most of my life, including the National Children’s Bureau, Child Poverty Action Group, the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies and, in my most recent job, as Director of Action on Empty Homes. Before joining the voluntary sector, I worked as an MP’s researcher in the House of Commons for 4 years.  


Criminal Justice System Policy Seminar Team: Sam Davey, Coral Smith, Lisa Duffy.

The team can be contacted at 

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