Why the new John Lewis advert matters
Topic: Adoption, Foster care, Permanence, Stigma, Voices of young people
Author: Samantha Fiander
CELCIS’s Communications and Engagement Lead, Samantha Fiander, reflects on why a focus on care in the UK’s most hotly anticipated annual Christmas retail advert is being welcomed
It is far from a revelation to say that children and adults with experience of care have experienced stigma and are often discriminated against. Stigma and discrimination are the result of the mental models we all carry about all sorts of issues, people, and experiences. For care experience this can be devastating, it leads to injustice and poor health for individuals and has a toxic effect on how care and the need for care is seen by society.
It's long been understood now that there is a pressing need to ‘reframe’ care, something being taken forward with the support of the Each and Every Child initiative which is underpinned by research and practice. For there to be a shift in public understanding of care, everyone needs to be exposed to a different story. And the new story also needs new messengers.
It’s fitting then that we have a new Christmas messenger – John Lewis and their annual Christmas advert. The messages conveyed here, through the most unexpected route, have the potential to cut through to the general public in ways that people working in children’s care might not be able to, despite all our best efforts. Evidence tells us that there has long been a gulf between public perceptions and understanding of the care needs of children and their families and what anyone working to support them, or with their own experience of care knows and understands.
What’s being demonstrated at its heart here by John Lewis is an ongoing commitment by one of the most trusted and well-known brands in the UK to supporting the talent and life chances of people with experience of care, providing opportunities and valuing experience. This is a world away from pity and charity that can ‘other’ people with lived experience that often only serves to exacerbate stigma and lead to discrimination.
The input and influence from partnership between the retailer and Who Cares? Scotland and Action For Children, alongside Become and the many children and young people who have told us all what matters, means that the storytelling in the advert is a world away from the cliches and stereotypes often brought to mind in fictional stories of care. What we see is care, relationships, trust and, crucially, that children who need care and protection are so much more than those needs. I would be hopeless on a skateboard!
We all know it takes a village to raise a child, which is why I very much welcome knowing that the department store, the supermarket and their staff recognise that they are part of the village.
CELCIS is a founding partner of Each and Every Child alongside The Robertson Trust, the Life Changes Trust, the Scottish Government, Social Work Scotland, and the Esmée Fairburn Foundation.
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