The achievements of children and young people looked after in foster care and care homes in West Sussex have been celebrated.
More than 350 young people and their loved ones attended the Exceptional People in Care (EPIC) Awards, which was held at Butlin’s in Bognor Regis late last month.
This year saw an exceptionally high level of nominations with a total of 209 young people nominated from different services and organisations throughout West Sussex.
Nominations were also made by schools, carers and the Children in Care Council.
This year, which had a Charlie and the Chocolate Factory theme, was also made extra special as the young people from the Children in Care Council were involved in organising the awards, supported by West Sussex County Council’s Young People’s Service.
Stephen Hillier, WSCC’s cabinet member for children - start of life, said: “This year’s awards really showcased the amazing young people that we have in West Sussex and illustrated that with hard work, tenacity and a supportive environment they can truly achieve anything they set their minds too.
“The event also stands testament to the families who foster and adopt children, to those who work in our care homes and to our social workers. Because of them, our young people in care have had the opportunity to develop and grow into the fantastic young people I have seen here today.”
Five of the award categories were:
• The Achieving Award - for achievement in education or extracurricular activities such as sports, performing arts or music. Winner 12-year-old Oliver Bailey Crocker.
• The Supporting Award - for making a positive contribution in areas such as helping others, volunteering and representing the voice of others. Winner 23-year-old Melissa Tallon.
• The Overcoming Award - for overcoming personal challenges including illness and disability. Winner 14-year-old Aland Dana
• Inspirational Care Leaver - in recognition of someone who acts as an example of what can be achieved by a care leaver. Winner 20-year-old Ruth Catchpole.
• The Chris Lindfield Award - for volunteering in the community. Winner 14-year-old Chloe Carr.
Melissa, winner of the Supporting Award, is an active member of a forum for care leavers and was nominated for her work to represent the voice of other young people in care by speaking up when others might not feel able to.
She said: “I feel very honoured to have won the supporting category overall and it is also a great feeling to be recognised for the work and support I do to help other young people in care and care leavers.”
Ruth Catchpole, winner of the Inspirational Care Leaver Award, was chosen for her constant bravery and determination in the face of many knockbacks and difficulties related to both her health and other factors.
Ruth said: “I feel very happy and honoured. It’s a token of my effort and all of our effort.
“I suffer with a rare genetic connective tissue disorder and it’s taken away my whole life but I’ve been working with the care leaver’s team and we’re getting me back on track and life is working out.”
The EPIC awards event was supported by Compact – Brighton University, Rotary International, Sussex Police, and West Sussex County Council.
Nima Khorramrooz, a care leaver from West Sussex, ended the awards with a very clear message.
Nima said: “The young people are the future leaders and the future starts now. Please don’t let anything hold you back guys. Consistency is the key to success. So please don’t give up and be consistent at all times.”
To learn more about the West Sussex Young People’s Service, visit www.westsussex.gov.uk/education-children-and-families, or young people can visit the Your Space website designed especially for them at www.yourspacewestsussex.co.uk
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