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‘Unprecedented’ documentary on children in care wins over critics and audiences

Channel 4’s KIDS, a three-part documentary series featuring access to teenagers and their families in the care system in Coventry aired earlier this week.

12/05/23

‘Unprecedented’ documentary on children in care wins over critics and audiences

A Channel 4 series gets up close and personal with six remarkable teenagers – and their families – in Coventry, as they enter a crucial year in their lives and prepare to leave the care system.

The broadcaster says that this is the first time audiences have been invited into their world to reveal the unflinching reality of how they entered care and how those experiences are carried with them today.

Episodes will air every Wednesday, with this week’s segment focusing on Xorin who, after being exploited by a drugs gang as a young teen, is returning home to Coventry from a children’s home in Wales to rebuild his life with mum Kelly. Meanwhile 19-year-old Annabelle is pregnant and determined to break the cycle of care that meant her being removed from her parents at the age of 5.

Future episodes will see Byron and Bayley negotiate living on their own for the first time as they leave the security and support of their carers. Meanwhile 16-year-old Havana takes on her first tenancy and has big questions she wants answered; she has never known her dad and now hopes to find him. Finally, after multiple placements, Kane returns to live near his mum but he wants to fully understand the reasons why he was removed as a young child and asks his social worker for access to his case files.

BAFTA-winning director Paddy Wivell (Prison) and Executive Producer, Colin Barr (Murder 24/7, Superkids: Breaking Away from Care) were granted ‘extraordinary’ access to Coventry City Council Children’s Services to take the viewer ‘deep into the heart of the care system’. Hearing from foster carers, social workers, service managers and children’s home staff KIDS, the broadcaster says, “lays bare the high-stakes decision making in trying to protect young people, and meets the parents who’ve had their children forcibly removed.”

“In this series the young people are rightly front and centre,” Director Paddy Wivell, said. “With the state acting as their corporate parent many feel they are treated differently to their peers. Rules and restrictions designed to protect also prevent them from having a public voice, making them invisible at a time when they need to be heard.”

“Too often we look at young people in care as if they are victims, or that they should be pitied in some say, which is just not how they live their lives,” Executive Producer Colin Barr added. “There is an energy and spirit to them which is just a joy to witness and Paddy is the perfect director to capture that in an uncompromising but uplifting way.”

The first episode has received widespread acclaim from critics and audiences. Jack Seale of the Guardian praised the show’s ability to win the trust of its subjects in a five-star review. Anita Singh of the Telegraph similarly gave the show top marks, praising its ability to find hope in bleakness.

Audiences were also impressed with many praising the show for tackling difficult issues.

“Not a surprising documentary for those who have lived experience,” wrote one care-experienced viewer on Twitter. “A documentary that needed to be made. hopefully a wider audience can see the issues faced by care experienced young people thanks to @coventrycc children’s services /young people who took part.”

“Three quarters through the first episode of #kids and I think it's the most impressive representation of the challenges and privileges of being a social worker, and the most sensitive, thoughtful insight into the lives of young people unable to remain at home,” another social worker added.

Coventry Director of Children’s Services John Gregg praised those involved in the production, saying he was proud the children got to share their stories, adding that the council is now hosting an open evening for anyone inspired by the program to find out more about becoming a social worker and making a difference for young people.

If you’d like to learn more about becoming a social worker, join Coventry City Council’s open evening at the Council House on Thursday 25 May from 4pm – 8pm.

Parts 2 and 3 of KIDS air 17 and 24 May, or stream now on channel4.com

Picture: Channel 4

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