A CARE-leaver who now works to help other looked-after children and young people in Warwickshire has been named Champion of The Year and Best Public Speaker at the National Leaving Care Benchmarking Forum.
Liss Phillips went into care at the age of 11, and now works at Warwickshire County Council (WCC) as a Family Support Worker.
She won the prestigious Champion award for her dedication to the Baby Box Project – which won Best Project at the 2020 awards. Baby Box is led by Liss and other care-experienced employees and apprentices at the council to provide useful supplies to help care-experienced young people who have recently become parents.
Liss said: “I’m really proud to have won two awards at the National Leaving Care Benchmarking Forum.
“I didn’t have the easiest start in life, so I am determined to make a difference for other care-experienced children and young people in Warwickshire.
“I reached out to WCC and asked for this opportunity as I knew I would be good at it, so I am grateful to have the chance to develop the baby box project to provide the support to expectant parents leaving care that I needed.”
Baby Boxes include essential items such as nappies, wipes, thermometers, bibs and other necessities. Young parents are also given financial support to help them buy items including a cot, buggy or car seat.
The project also facilitates a Young Parents Forum that is led by young people to raise awareness of the service and to discuss issues that are important to them.
Liss was nominated due to the success of the project, which has received national recognition. She has spoken with passion and confidence about the baby boxes at the government care leavers cross-ministerial board with the Minister for Education, Cabinet Minister, Department for Work and Pensions Minister and many more in attendance.
She has shared her thoughts and experiences around being a care-experienced young parent and the support required for the health and wellbeing of both parents and children.
The Baby Box Project in Warwickshire has inspired similar projects across the country – and Liss has also gone on to share details about the project with Chief Social Worker Isabelle Trowler, the Department for Education and Public Health England.
Liss won the Best Public Speaker award after delivering a heart-warming speech about her story and experience in care.
During her speech, entitled ‘Behind My Smile’, she said: “I am not letting what happened to me in the past get me down. I get one life and I’m not wasting it on things I can’t control.
“There is always someone who can help, and we shouldn’t hide behind our smiles. We should get involved, reach out, speak up and be honest.”
WCC’s children and families spokesman Coun Jeff Morgan said: “I would like to say thank you to Liss for all her hard work on the Baby Box Project and her other duties as a Family Support Worker. We are very lucky to have someone with such passion at WCC.
“Children and young people need secure, safe and stable home lives. Liss is just one example of someone who is using her experience in care to help other young people in the same position and make a difference to the way the council and other organisations keep children safe.
“She started off as an apprentice at WCC and has now progressed to a Family Support Worker – she is a fantastic example of someone who has left care and grown into who she wants to be. Liss, along with other care experience colleagues at WCC, is an asset to Warwickshire.”
The National Leaving Care Benchmarking Forum is a network of over 100 local authorities aiming to improve the quality of leaving care services and share best practice to enrich outcomes for the nations care leavers.
Visit www.warwickshire.gov.uk/leavingcare for more information on leaving care in Warwickshire.