In a compelling and deeply personal documentary, Joe Swash, the beloved TV personality known for his roles in EastEnders, I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here, and Dancing on Ice, is shining a spotlight on the untold stories of Britain’s teens in care. Titled “Teens in Care,” the 60-minute film follows Joe as he explores the lives of teenagers over the age of 16 who are navigating the child protection and care system.
The documentary comes at a time when the number of children aged 16 and above in care has surged by 37% over the last decade alone, indicating the urgent need to address the challenges faced by these vulnerable young individuals. Motivated by his personal connection to the issue, Joe Swash is delving into the care system, which holds a special place in his heart due to his mother Kiffy’s 15-year-long commitment as a foster carer. Together with his wife, Stacey, Joe is considering fostering in the future, making this documentary a natural extension of his passion for understanding and improving the care system.
Having witnessed firsthand the unique struggles faced by a teenager in care, whom he has grown close to through his mother’s fostering, Joe is determined to shed light on these issues and give a voice to the teens across the UK living in foster care and residential children’s homes. The film aims to provide an authentic depiction of what it is truly like for teenagers to grow up within the care system.
Joe’s journey of discovery aligns with the recent publication of the Independent Review of Children’s Social Care, which presents a once-in-a-generation opportunity to transform the care system and ensure the provision of loving, safe, and stable families for children. However, the documentary questions whether this review can effectively address the root problems facing teens in care.
The poignant film follows Joe as he spends time with teenagers in different stages of their lives within the care system, capturing their experiences in foster care, residential care, and as they navigate life after turning 18. By immersing himself in their lives, Joe gains insight into their daily struggles, while also engaging with experts and policymakers to understand the measures being taken to address the shortcomings of the care system. He seeks to identify the root causes of the challenges faced by teens in care and discover signs of optimism for the future.
In an interview with Bradford Zone, Joe Swash provided further insight into the documentary and shared his thoughts on the care system:
Explaining the purpose of the documentary, Joe said, “The documentary looks at the care system with a focus on teenagers over the age of 16, showcasing their diverse experiences and shedding light on the challenges they encounter. We want to raise awareness about the system’s failures and the urgent need for change. As a society, we owe it to these young people.”
When asked about his personal connection to the subject, Joe revealed, “My mum has been fostering for about 15 years, and my family has been involved with the care system. Growing up, it has been a significant part of my life. Witnessing the experiences of Daniel, one of the kids my mum fostered, who just turned 18, made me realise that not all teenagers in care have the same positive experiences and opportunities. I felt compelled to give them a voice.”
Reflecting on his encounters with teens in the documentary, Joe stated, “The majority of the young people I met have had challenging experiences within the care system. They lack significant support, love, and attention. The independent review recommends that every person in the care system should have at least two people who care for and love them, but these kids haven’t experienced that. It’s disheartening to witness their isolated lives, with no friends or family. There must be a better way to prepare them for adulthood.”
Joe emphasised the importance of consistency and relationships in the lives of these young individuals. “Any form of continuity, whether it’s a relative or a trusted figure in their lives while in care, can make a significant difference. Maintaining relationships and offering a sense of love is crucial, as these kids yearn for affection. We need to reevaluate and improve the system to meet their needs.”
Reflecting on the difficulties he faced during the documentary’s production, Joe expressed, “Meeting these young people and leaving them in their challenging circumstances while returning home to the warmth and love of my family made me feel guilty. I realised how fortunate I am. It was challenging not to imagine my own children in their situation, which tore me apart. I felt an overwhelming desire to do more for them, even though my options were limited.”
Regarding his encounter with the Children’s Minister, Joe commented, “The independent review highlighted the alarming state of the care system, emphasising its long-standing deterioration. The government’s response has been disappointing, with only a fraction of the recommended investment being allocated. It is frustrating to see such an important cause being neglected, as the consequences will have far-reaching effects. We need urgent action to rectify this issue.”
Joe Swash urged viewers to watch the documentary, stating, “This documentary offers a hard-hitting and realistic portrayal of the care system’s current state. It demands a call to action and immediate change. Many people may not be fully aware of the extent of the system’s disarray. I hope this film will open their eyes and inspire them to voice their opinions, encouraging collective efforts to effect positive change.”
When asked about his personal growth during the documentary’s production, Joe Swash revealed, “This experience made me realise the extent of my privilege and how often I take it for granted. Witnessing the struggles of these young people has deeply affected me. It has instilled a desire in my wife and me to consider fostering once our children are older. We want to provide a safe and loving environment for those who haven’t been as fortunate.”
In conclusion, Joe expressed his desire to further explore and learn about the care system, stating, “This documentary focused specifically on teenagers over the age of 16. There are numerous aspects and facets of the system that we haven’t explored. I would love to delve deeper into the care system and revisit the young people I met to understand how they are faring as they transition into adulthood.”
“Teens in Care” is set to be a thought-provoking and eye-opening documentary that aims to ignite a much-needed conversation about the care system and the challenges faced by teenagers in care. With Joe Swash’s personal connection and dedication, this film holds the potential to bring about real change and improve the lives of those who need it the most.