Voice of Young People in Care (VOYPIC), a charity for children and young people with a lived experience of care in Northern Ireland, is launching MyVOYPIC Family today, Friday February 19 to coincide with its sixth annual Care Day event.
MyVOYPIC is a social community for young people up to the age of 25 who have experience of living care in Northern Ireland.
Free of charge, the scheme will allow participants to be part of a social circle that can share experiences and enjoy access to both virtual and real events, as well as regular updates about opportunities at VOYPIC.
The first 500 members to sign up will receive goodie bags, including an exclusive MyVOYPIC gift.
The initiative comes as VOYPIC, alongside four other children’s rights charities around the UK and Ireland, engage in a day-long event of fun online activities as part of Care Day 21.
Care Day this year will be slightly different as in previous years as it swaps reality for virtual activities all of which will have the underlying theme of uniting the care experienced community, at a time when we cannot all be together.
Among the online events will be poetry readings from around the UK, a live drumming event, an interactive performance by Belfast Circus School, a virtual choir and a joint activities and movie virtual party for young people in care across the UK and Ireland.
Speaking about the event this year, Alicia Toal, chief executive, VOYPIC said: “The past year has been a very challenging time for everyone, not least those who are living in or have experience of living in care, making our annual event and the theme of togetherness more poignant than ever.
“To mark what has been a very difficult time for many of the children and young people we work with and to celebrate the unity that has been ever present throughout the pandemic, we have launched our new MyVOYPIC Membership Scheme which will expand our care experienced family, providing a safe and supported space for our community to come together, share experience, make friends and have fun.”
One of those young people who will be joining the MyVOYPIC family on Friday is Curtis Robinson (13) from Belfast. He said, “I’ve been involved with VOYPIC for couple of years, and have taken part in the lots of great activities and events, both online and in the real world. VOYPIC has helped me use my voice, and have a say on being in care and the decisions that are taken.
“I’m really excited to be one of the first young people to join the new scheme, MyVOYPIC. VOYPIC is all about us, the young people, and it’s really great to have a programme like this to help us get to know other young people with experience of care, right across Northern Ireland.”
The latest statistics for children in care in Northern Ireland (as of March 31, 2019 from the Department of Health) show that there are 3,281 children in care here, 79% of whom live in foster care. Four percent are currently living in residential children’s homes.
VOYPIC was created in 1993 by a group of young people in care and professionals. Its job is to promote the rights and voice of children in care and care leavers, working towards a society where every child in care has a safe, stable, and positive experience of care, and is involved in decisions about their life.
To view the programme of events schedule for Care Day 2021 check out https://www.voypic.org/careday/
The Department of Health and Department of Education have also today published their new strategy for children and young people in care https://www.health-ni.gov.uk/news/new-strategy-care-experienced-children-and-young-people-published )
Welcoming the announcement, Ms Toal comments: “We’re delighted that the Department of Health and the Department of Education have published the new strategy for children and young people in care – A Life Deserved: Caring for children and young people in Northern Ireland.
“Over the past number of years, our children and young people have played a key role in the development of this strategy, sitting down and talking with government officials, and telling them what it’s like to grow up and live in care.
“We really hope that over the next number of years these conversations will continue, so that children and young people with lived experience of care can have a real role in ensuring that the strategy is delivered and achieves really positive outcomes.”