I spent my early life in care, and so have experienced many of the injustices I would like to see righted. My mum went into the Council offices when I was a toddler, put me on the counter, and said "I can't cope!". She then walked off without a word. I remember this trauma well, but I was too young to talk. The social workers didn't even know my name.
This led to me going into foster care with the wonderful Rosie Red, who fostered hundreds of children in Exeter, but I had to wait several weeks before I saw someone I knew again. My nan fought hard to get me out of care and give me a family to live with. She moved us to Bradninch from Exeter when I was ten and I cherish my memories there.
The instability of my early years was confounded in my early education. My first teacher said I was unteachable and would never amount to anything. Yet I caught up and became an administrator for Exeter Crown Court by the age of 17. With the right support and encouragement even those with the most difficult backgrounds can make something of their lives.
My experience of social care has led me to want to get involved in politics - to help those who need it most. It's often the people who have experienced the issues we are seeking to resolve that can make the biggest difference.
We are failing our children.
And the situation has got worse through the Covid pandemic: children and young people's mental health issues have exploded with many young people presenting in crisis at A&Es rather than getting the early help they need; waiting times for social care and psychological services are increasing.
Under the current Conservative administration at County Hall, Devon's children's services have been failing for 7 years. Inspectors say it is 'inadequate'. In 2012, again under a Tory administration, Cornwall's children's services were also failing and branded as inadequate. A new Lib Dem and Independent run Cornwall Council turned the situation around with a new focus, ,management and a fresh, child centred approach, to create an OFSTED 'outstanding' children's service.
We need to properly fund and manage our children's services in Devon, learning from best practice in other areas. We need to find more good foster carers, change our approach to children's services and help young people build resilience.
Our schools have also been let down.
Here in Devon, our children have seen a £253 cut per pupil in Government funding.
Schools are the place to invest to give every child the best chance in life, no matter their background. They desperately need better funding - for teachers and assistants and to repair the fabric of their buildings, many of which have fallen into disrepair. Pupil Premium, introduced in 2012 by the Lib Dems, helps those who need it most, and this funding needs to be increased. Universal free school meals, also introduced by the Lib Dems, need protecting.
As a young woman and a care leaver, my path to standing for election has been different from most. I would like to be a voice for the children in care: growing up in care can be hard, but with the right support as you grow up it can also be empowering. Often, the people who have experienced the biggest challenges can have the most impact.
Andrea Glover, Liberal Democrat Candidate for Cullompton & Bradninch
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