The majority of the young people we work with at Revoke live in care, where accommodation is provided free of charge. However, the realities of the care system mean that on becoming legal adults at 18, they will do anything necessary to instead live independently, including earning money to pay rent. This stretches their financial capabilities, as they are often the primary breadwinner for their families back home. Still, remaining in the care system is synonymous with prison conditions. Lack of privacy and trust leave these young people deeply frustrated; visiting hours are limited (with overnight visitors forbidden); premises are monitored 24/7, with all comings and goings recorded; and keys are not provided to their own ‘home’.
By blindly following protocols - often at the expense of the young people’s physical and mental health - statutory services have been observed making unforgivable errors which exacerbate their residents’ negative conditions. Jamal’s article summarises a recent experience within his care provision, when staff refused to pick him up from hospital after major surgery due to the unavailability of a manager to provide confirmation. This case highlights the extreme lack of empathy and compassion which can flourish when following protocol is prioritised.
Basic care support has been heavily eroded by twelve years of Conservative leadership, with the most affected being those furthest from financial independence or power. If the country was organised so as to give importance to care, this sector would not be notorious for its failings. We live in a society that prioritises GDP and economic growth instead of the wellbeing of its citizens. When care is not viewed as an alternative economy, services replicate the corporate behaviours which thrive on competitive and punitive bases.
What would our system look like if care was instead treated as seriously as a currency? How might stories like Jamal's, below, be different?
I would like to share a personal experience with you to shed light on a serious social problem: a lack of care and compassion for vulnerable people in care. I recently had knee surgery because I injured my knee in football more than a year ago. I waited over one year for the surgery. A difficult year dealing with pain and mobility.
On the day of the surgery, although there was no one to assist me to go home, the nurse discharged me. The protocol clearly states that after surgery, patients cannot go home alone while still under the influence of anaesthesia. The nurse asked me to call someone to pick me up so I called my key worker, however he refused to offer me any support and told me to find my own way home. I told the nurse that there was nobody to come and help me go home and I was not feeling well enough to go alone. I asked if I could stay longer, but the nurse refused and insisted on discharging me. I had no other choice but to leave the hospital alone.
I took a bus and on the way home, I fell a few times then when I got home, I felt a lot of pain. I took some painkillers and tried to sleep but a few hours later I woke up with a lot of pain. I was worried that the falls had caused an injury. So I decided to go back to the hospital and at the hospital I got an X-ray. The X-ray showed no injury. However, the doctor was stunned to find out that the hospital had discharged me alone.
I live in a care house. My friends were not allowed to come to visit me and bring me food. The key workers did not help me in any way. I had to go shopping and cook for myself. My room is on the top floor; since I couldn't walk upstairs I stayed in the living room. The care managers told me to move up to my room without offering any help. They treated me very rudely.
A few days after the surgery I felt chest pain and my leg was swollen. I called the NHS and they sent me a taxi to take me to the hospital. I am very happy that the NHS immediately responded. The situation in the home improved after Revoke intervened on my behalf. I think it is very important to share this story with you as I felt miserable about how my key workers and their managers lacked care and compassion; qualities that are essential in their line of work.
I have no family, not enough money and had to cope with all these difficulties as an individual. This episode demonstrates how even day to day occurrences can cause a lot of suffering and stress for someone without family and financial means.
This article was co-written by Jamal, a young asylum seeker, and Revoke, a grassroots organisation advocating for the rights and welfare of underserved young people, particularly unaccompanied refugee minors, asylum seekers and those in the care system. In opposition to punitive services that leave young people vulnerable, Revoke aims to give them agency by engaging with culture, society, and politics, and co-designing activities that restore dignity and give a sense of fulfillment.
Revoke recently worked with four young asylum seekers to write articles about their experiences of living in the UK, the dominant Western economic system, and its wider repercussions on African countries. These were written in collaboration with Hannah Theodorou, Safeguarding Lead at Revoke, who also provides context for each article.
This article is part of Economy's Voices of the Economy series. The project brings together the economic experiences and opinions of people from a range of different backgrounds and showcases voices which are not heard as often when we talk about the economy. To find out more and share your own story, click here.