Can Do Health & Care - Thinking Differently Report March 2021

The power in your hands to change lives Let’s start by thinking about 13-year-old David, who was in a school for maladjusted children in St Osyth, without a future. I had it drummed into me from a very early age in care, by teachers, social workers and youth workers that my life would amount to nothing. Unfortunately, in some ways, they were right. On my journey through the care system, I ended up like a lot of young people, leaving the care system and going straight into the penal system. I spent six months in borstal, which I am not proud of, but it is a part of my past. I got out of that situation through a series of opportunities that came my way, that I decided to take. My first opportunity was as a campaigner for young people in care, which meant that I could talk to the council, such as the director of social care, about how I wanted the system to change. During that period, I started to make videos to help to train social workers and became interested in film making. I didn’t have the family contacts that other people had, so I applied to the Prince’s Trust for a grant. Luckily, they awarded me a grant of £500 which enabled me to buy some equipment so that I could start my journey to become a journalist. After working for a number of weeks I decided to give the money back to the Prince’s Trust as I was earning quite good money at the Sunday Times. The Prince’s Trust asked that instead of returning the money, I sit on their committee in North East London to award grants to young people. They felt I was someone who would understand the young people better than many of those already on the committee. After six months in that role, His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales wrote to ask me to join the Board of the Trust, which I did – another example of an opportunity that I took. It is important to recognise that Prince’s Trust grants always included an element of risk, as the grants of usually £500 were being made to young people, but hopefully you can see, 30 years down the line, how well the Prince’s Trust has developed, and benefitted hundreds of thousands of young people who would not have had help otherwise. I always dreamed of having a job that would make my friends and family proud. I was very interested in media, and began to apply for jobs at the BBC. In those days, you could not get into the BBC if you didn’t have a university education, preferably an Oxbridge education. I applied five times before I got an interview, and I remember that at the interview, my application form had actually been in the bin. I could see teabag stains on the paper, so I commented that I hadn’t sent it in like that, and they admitted it had been in the bin because I didn’t have a university education. It had only been taken out of the bin because someone in the BBC had heard of me and had asked them to give me a chance. I spent 25 years working at the BBC, whilst also still carrying on my work with the Prince’s Trust. Over the years I have been involved in lots of different projects and opportunities that have come my way. I believe that it is really important that organisations like the ones participating today, extend an arm out, to do something to try and redress the balance for young people in care. Some local authorities are already thinking about whether the young people that they are responsible for could apply for some of their jobs. Within most families there is some element of nepotism, with family members using their connections to help younger members. At the BBC I was known for giving young ruffians opportunities, and I did this because I saw that all the other young people on work experience were the children of people who worked there. I made sure that young people, working class, care leavers, and people of colour, who weren’t used to coming into somewhere like the BBC, had that opportunity. I am proud that there are a number of really successful producers and directors who entered TV through that route. It is really important that we are having these debates, talking about how we can get value from what we do. We are paid for by the taxpayer, the NHS is everybody’s NHS, and we all fund social care. We need to think about how we can get social value out of every pound that we spend. It is something in our hearts, wanting to give opportunity to people who otherwise haven’t had it, and trying to create a level playing field so that people like me who have come from where I have come from, can contribute. I probably cost the state for 18 years, but my contribution to the state is through being a volunteer, getting out of the care system, and getting into a position where I can be a foster carer for other young people coming through it. I want to support and encourage social value. I have seen how it has worked for kids in care and can see how it can work for lots of other groups in society who don’t have the same opportunity as many of you. 2. The difference we can make together by thinking differently about social value and social entrepreneurs David Akinsanya, Suffolk and North East Essex ICS Equalities Lead Thinking Differently Together | 2