With two months to go until Christmas, The Children’s Society has launched its #Christingle50 campaign – supporting vulnerable young people through raising funds at Christingle events and a collaboration with The Royal Academy of Music.
The charity report that 200,000* 10 to 17 year olds in the UK are experiencing emotional neglect on a regular basis.
To help raise awareness of abuse and neglect this Christmas, and to raise funds to help support more youngsters, the Children’s Society are asking schools to use Christingle services as an opportunity to remember those in need, and conveying the message that: “Together, we can help a child to feel safe for the first time this Christmas.” To find your nearest service, visit childrenssociety.org.uk. The Christingle Song Light A Candle – composed by Louise Drewett with words by poet Clare Shaw – is available to download and listen to or learn for free from christingle.org/song.
At 15, Maddie was suffering from abuse at home, so she started going missing. Without anywhere to turn and knowing she needed help, Maddie went to social services for support, but she wasn’t believed, and her mum was called to pick her up.
As Christmas approached, the council were still refusing to help and Maddie was forced to find a friend that she could stay with: “I was staying at the family home of someone who I hadn’t known for that long. It was very run down. It wasn’t in any way like your lovely family Christmas. I just felt like the world had ended. I went from having a relatively normal Christmas for most for my childhood, to being homeless and living on microwave pizzas. I think I got one present from a friend that year, who bought me a candle.
“I couldn’t return home, because my mum was abusive, and my step dads were abusive. My mum wouldn’t have wanted anyone else to know what was going on in the family, so Christmas was very much keeping up appearances. I remember looking in lighted shop windows and everyone else was having their lovely Christmas. It’s the time of year when everyone expects to do something with their family. Even my grandparents, who I did get on with, weren’t talking to me, because of everything that had happened, so I didn’t have contact with my family at all over this Christmas.”
Without any family to turn to for support, Maddie was extremely vulnerable and at a direct risk of child sexual exploitation, “The friend who I was staying with had an older sister, who was being sexually exploited herself and she tried to get me involved in it. I was made to watch a sex act and then given cannabis.”
The Children’s Society supported Maddie all the way through this difficult time and, thanks to their persistence, the local authority finally agreed to support her. Soon afterwards, she was placed in care: “My worker, Alan, supported me by coming to panel meetings with children’s services and so on, until the council finally agreed to support me. It was a while before Christmas got that much better - I spent a couple of years being fairly broke and not having contact with any of my family, but the one where I homeless was the worst one I’ve ever had.”
“Now I’m older and I’m a social worker. It’s hard sometimes to put myself back in the position of where I was when I was 15, when I didn’t know anything about how to access support or what application form I needed to get housing or be able to talk to social services and get them to help me. The Children’s Society backed me up on all of that, so if I hadn’t had them there, I wouldn’t have known what to do to get myself into somewhere safe.”
How to get involved
Christingle is a festive tradition that was brought to the UK in 1968 by The Children’s Society to help disadvantaged children and young people. The event is now celebrated in hundreds of churches, cathedrals, schools and communities up and down the country. The celebration is named after the Christingles that are lit during the service. Christingles are made from an orange decorated with red tape, sweets and a candle.