Children & Young People Opinion Real Lives Wellbeing

Inspired by hope – why we created an art exhibition

Chris Luck CB MBE, CEO, Shaw Trust Group

Chris Luck CB MBE, CEO, Shaw Trust Group

As part of Shaw Trust’s 40th anniversary celebrations we hosted an art exhibition, Inspired by

Hope,  with more than 70 works created by children and young people we support through our children’s services and from colleagues with lived experience of care.

Although a laudable project in its own right, why, did we do it?

For us it epitomised Shaw Trust’s Homes to Inspire approach of putting the child at the centre of our work, ensuring the children and young people we support experience a breadth of opportunity not usually associated with care services. Such additional extracurricular activities should not only be the preserve of children from settled homes; the confidence and social capital these extracurricular activities create must be open to all. One young person told us that the Art Exhibition was their first time in a gallery, demonstrating why it was an important project.

“To be honest it’s my first time in a gallery, I’m proud of myself that my first experience in a gallery is to see my art piece. It’s a really wonderful memory that I will keep.”

From the start of the project, we engaged with young people, encouraging them to consider the topic ‘inspiration’ and naming the exhibition at their suggestion. Art as therapy has long been recognised for its benefits: its ability to take us away from our everyday lives and its power to make sense, create perspective and redraw boundaries. This outlet for our emotions and freedom of expression was a powerful motivator and I heard first-hand how participating in the Art Exhibition helped grow confidence as the artists’ contributions and talents were recognised.

One young person shared: “art is important to me because I can express things that I can’t say, things that I can’t word properly, that I’m afraid someone will not understand in the way that I want to be understood.

Another spoke of how: “art has helped me through some really, really tough times due to not being in the greatest of places mentally and physically. It’s helped me to escape.”

Our work providing homes for young adults with care experience, residential homes for children and our innovative ten-year partnership in Somerset supports some of the country’s most vulnerable young people: those that have ‘been through the system’ and too often, been let down by it. For many of these children and young people being seen through their art was an opportunity to demonstrate their potential not their past.

This approach reflects our ambition to offer more to our children, to enable them to strive for betterment. Because for us our responsibilities go beyond contracted care. Care isn’t a 9-5 job and not everyone can do it. It takes commitment, strength and

Entry 80, ‘Forever Family’, by George

passion and must be rewarded through good progression, strong employee packages and recognition. As a sector we should all be striving for this.

As an employer we are proud the majority of our regional managers, registered managers and deputy home managers started their careers with us as support workers. They have grown as we have grown to become the ninth largest private residential children’s home provider and the only not-for-profit, charitable provider in the top 10.

This charitable status enables us to reinvest our surplus, or profit, for a purpose. It gives us the freedom to create art exhibitions that celebrate and recognise the importance of social capital for our children and young people. We want to see more strategic partnerships such as our own with Somerset Council, where commissioners responsible for children’s wellbeing, the health services that support the children and the providers who home them all work together to ensure our children and young people get the support they need to grow and develop into engaged, purposeful adults.

Put simply, at Shaw Trust’s Homes to Inspire and children’s services we want the children and young people we support to have the same opportunities we all want for our own children.

Kirsty

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