BBC TwoNewsnight
Page last updated at 11:41 GMT, Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Liz MacKean
by Liz MacKean
BBC Newsnight

Phil delivers his presentation
Stand Up, Speak Out aims to build the confidence of those in care
Most people can relate to the terror of public speaking.

Once, when I had to take centre stage feeling distinctly unprepared, I had to consult my doctor about the ensuing heart palpitations. Really.

So on a recent trip to Leicester to check up on our care leavers, I was interested to discover that two were delivering presentations.

Phil, the most softly spoken of the four, turns out to be an old hand.

He is part of a group called Stand Up, Speak Out (SUSO), set up by Leicester City Council to build the confidence of its looked-after children.

Phil tells me he used to suffer terribly from nerves, but not anymore. And it is with considerable ease that he stands up during a training session of care workers to give a PowerPoint presentation on what makes a good social worker.

Social standing


It is a subject he knows a lot about.

Since being taken into care aged 10, Phil, now 17, has had to deal with an array of care workers; up to fifteen of them, he tells me.

That is why he says he has never formed a good working relationship with any of them.

The high turnover of staff in frontline services is an issue across social work.

Scandals like the case of Baby P do not help, of course, but the government has also identified the lack of standing across the profession.

It has set up a Social Work Taskforce to try to boost recruitment and retention, which is due to report this year.

Dependable presence

I go along to the Leicester Tigers' stadium to catch up with Jareth, who is about to make a presentation of his own.

He has been fortunate in having consistency with his care worker, Andy Price.

Andy became Jareth's care worker when Jareth was 16.

It is Andy's job to get Jareth ready to leave the care system when he turns 18 in a few weeks' time.

Jareth completed a 12-week Prince's Trust skills course
In fact, Andy first met Jareth when he was aged just five, just before he was taken into care. At the time Andy was working with Jareth's older brothers.

The importance of a dependable presence in Jareth's life becomes very clear at the stadium as Jareth prepares for his presentation.

This is the culmination of a 12-week course run by the Prince's Trust to help give young people the skills they will need for the workplace.

The speech is a big undertaking for Jareth, who struggles with severe dyslexia, and he was expecting his mother to come along to support him.

In the end, she doesn't appear.

"It doesn't bother me," he tells me afterwards. "It's not like it hasn't happened before."

Later, she tells him she had problems getting a lift to the venue.

Watch Liz MacKean's film on Newsnight on Tuesday, 3 March, 2009 at 10.30pm on BBC Two and live online.

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