Ashleigh's experience in care is now helping council services
Warm, articulate and intelligent, Ashleigh Stephen would be an asset to any organisation. However, it’s not only these qualities that have secured the 20-year-old a specially-created post with Midlothian Council.
Ashleigh is helping to shape council services
As the council’s first Participation Assistant, Ashleigh will be drawing on her experience in care to help the council shape, inform and improve services for young people in similar circumstances.
Ashleigh is a remarkable young woman
Midlothian Council’s cabinet member for Children’s Services, Councillor Jim Muirhead said: “Ashleigh has spent the last seven years in kinship and foster care. She’s also endured periods of homelessness during which she managed to pass her Highers and recently graduated from Edinburgh College with HND in Beauty Therapy.
“This is a remarkable young woman who has faced much hardship in her young life.
Her experiences in care will help us to improve
“As a council, we want to get it right for every child. Who better then to help us shape and improve our services for care-experienced young people than someone who has gone through it herself?
We are delighted to have Ashleigh onboard
“We’re absolutely delighted to have Ashleigh onboard in a newly created role as a Participation Assistant, funded by the Life Changes Trust.
She is also supporting our Champions Group
“Not only is Ashleigh giving us invaluable insight into the day to day reality of being care-experienced, but she’s also making a big difference by supporting our young people who are part of the Champions Group.“
The group is for young people in care
The Champions Group is made up of young people in care or who have been in care. The group meets every other week to talk about important issues affecting their lives and those of other young people who are also care-experienced. The group has a pivotal role in directing and influencing policy and practice within children’s services and other areas such as education and health.
It is important to listen to young people
Ashleigh says of her time in care that while now she is grateful for all the help she received from social workers, at the time she sometimes didn’t understand decisions made about her welfare.
She says: “I think it’s important to listen (to young people) and explain what’s happening. I sometime say to people, ‘do you want my name or my bar code?’ I didn’t feel I had space to be myself, that I was being labelled.”
Ashleigh did an eight-hour round trip to college
Despite her unsettled home life moving from kinship to foster care and then to homeless accommodation, Ashleigh continued to attend school and study for her exams. She also worked in a local beauty salon in Penicuik and later, having secured a place at Perth College, did an eight hour round-trip daily to get her HND in Beauty Therapy. She kept her life in care a secret from most people as she felt she would be judged negatively.
She is ready to influence change
Now, however, with a part-time post with the council, another job in the same beauty salon and an upcoming move into a council property, she is more than ready to use her voice to influence change.
She wants to make a difference
“I want to make a difference,” she says.
Ashleigh is pictured with Cllr Jim Muirhead and the council's head of children's services, Joan Tranent.