Letters from Lockdown took place in summer 2020, and saw eight care experienced young people come together for creative writing sessions that explored stories and images from the Foundling Hospital archive. Each week, the participants took part in a letter writing challenge which included formal and informal letters to a variety of audiences.

Reena Syed was one of these young people, and as a student social worker she chose to write an open letter to the Chief Social Worker for Children, Isabelle Trowler, about her experiences as an LGBTQ+ person training to be a social worker. She explains that the profession needs specialist LGBTQ+ practitioners to ensure truly inclusive services for the young people in its care. You can read an excerpt from her letter below.

Dear Isabelle Trowler,

I am a trainee social worker. As a care-experienced young person, I wanted to use my experiences to help others and stand up for their rights. What I didn’t expect was to feel uncomfortable as a gay student on my social work course.

I didn’t feel that I could share my experiences with my fellow student social workers because there was a lack of understanding and respect for LGBTQ+ issues. I knew that there were people on my course who did not agree with LGBTQ+ relationships and I was concerned about how they would react to me. I didn’t want to be judged or discriminated against. This in turn made me question whether these students would be able to practice in an inclusive, anti-discriminatory way.

I had not come out during my time in care or the early years of being a care leaver. However, I did live with a care leaver identifying as gay who felt they needed to hide their sexuality and relationships from their personal advisers, social workers and fellow care leavers for fear of discrimination. I have experienced care leaver social work frameworks and applications that were written solely in cisgender terms, while excluding LGBTQ+ options. This made me feel invisible.

Read the rest of the open letter on Community Care, where it was first published in July 2020.