Children in care are stars for the night at special awards ceremony

Picture caption: One Leeds youngster enjoying being a VIP for the day at the STARS awards for looked after children.

Children in care from across Leeds have been treated like stars for the night at a prom style awards ceremony.

The STARS awards were organised by Leeds City Council to celebrate and recognise the many achievements of children and young people in care.

In order to make sure all children and young people got the chance to attend an event which was suitable for their age, two were held – a party for younger children at Leeds Museum and a more sophisticated ‘prom’ style event for young people at Leeds Met University.

To make the events extra special and relevant, young people who themselves are either in care, or recent care leavers, were closely involved in planning and organising both parties. The young people were involved right from the start decided on all aspects of the awards, including the name, ‘STARS’ which stands for ‘Sharing Talent and Recognising Success’, as well as food, entertainment, decorations and prizes.

All children and young people who are being looked after by Leeds City Council, either in foster care, or residential homes were invited to attend and were given the opportunity to walk down the red carpet, enjoy live entertainment and celebrate their own and each other’s successes.

Around 190 children and young people were nominated for a wide range of achievements. With nominations received from a wide variety of people who work with or look after the children including carers, social workers, teachers, nurses, personal advisors and youth offending staff.

Children and young people were nominated for a wide range of reasons including: involvement in Leeds Children’s Promise Book, improvement in educational attainment and attendance; involvement in 5-a-side football clubs; becoming an independent traveller (planning journeys to and from home, learning about road safety etc.); improved behaviour and relationship with carers, and; commitment to out of school activities.

The young people on the planning panel decided they wanted each prize to be a special ‘money can’t buy’ gift, which were picked especially for each winner.

The Young Person’s Super Star winner for Community Involvement went to a young man who demonstrated real community spirit and kindness through helping out his elderly neighbours; clearing the snow from their paths, weeding their garden and helping them out with household chores. The young people’s panel (made up of young people from the event planning group, the ‘Have a Voice’ council and a representative from the Leeds Youth Council) chose him to win this super star award as he demonstrated real kindness and empathy with his neighbours. The panel hoped that winning this award would show that kindness does have rewards, and encourage him to continue to try hard and achieve his goals.

His individual prize was a private ‘behind the scenes’ tour of Home Farm at Temple Newsam where he will be able to take care of some of the animals as he really enjoys caring for animals.

The Children’s Super Star winner for the category of Arts and Creativity was a young girl who was inspired by a school trip to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park to get in touch with the artist, who then visited her school to meet her and her class and look at their sculptures they had designed.

Her special prize for this award was a VIP day at Leeds Art Gallery where she will be able to go behind the scenes and explore the art in ways others don’t!

All award winners received a £10 gift voucher. Other Super Stars won: behind the scenes tour of Leeds Arena; family ticket to see Jack and the Beanstalk at the City Varieties; gig tickets for gig of their choice at Leeds Met University and Leeds University, and; Leeds Festival Tickets.

Mel Clarke, is 22, and was in care from the age of 4. Mel was on the judging panel for the STARS event. She said:

“I've been in care myself, and believe it's actually helped my future. I think it's important to recognise children and young people in care because I believe the majority of people in care believe it's their fault, they feel different and don't like everybody knowing. Making sure that they are recognised not just for being different for being in care, but also for their personal achievements helps boost their confidence and self-esteem, and everybody deserves that.

“It's important that looked after people were involved with the planning because we have an idea as to what children in care would want, and not want. We've been through the experience ourselves and being able to use to that to benefit others and make something so special like the STARS awards happen is an excellent way to be involved.”

Councillor Judith Blake, executive member responsible for children’s services said: “We owe it to the children and young people we look after to give them the recognition for their successes and achievements that they deserve.

“As part of our pledge to be a child friendly city we want to give young people a voice, and this is great example of how it works in practice. The young people who helped to organise these events did a wonderful job and should be very proud.

“The STARS awards were a great opportunity for the young people to celebrate each other’s achievements as well as giving them a great excuse to have fun and party!”

For media enquiries, please contact:
Emma Whittell, Leeds City Council press office, on (0113) 2474713
Email: emma.whittell@leeds.gov.uk