Manchester

Lemn Sissay arranges Christmas dinner for care leavers

Christmas dinner
Image caption Lemn Sissay says he wants to show young people who have left care they are wanted by society and are "worth something"

Young people who have spent part of their childhood in care have been invited to special Christmas dinners by Manchester poet Lemn Sissay.

The Christmas Day meals will take place in Manchester, Leeds and London after Mr Sissay, who is Chancellor of Manchester University, raised £38,000.

The poet, who was in a Wigan children's home from the age of 12 to 18, said he wanted to create happy memories.

A group of volunteers has sourced the venues, transport, food and presents.

'System inadequacies'

The dinners are being provided for care leavers in the three cities who are aged between 18 and 30.

"At its most simple the Christmas dinner offers a memory so next year the person can look back and think I was worth something then," Mr Sissay said.

"Christmas Day actually exposes the inadequacies of a system which treats children as if they are a problem because that day the child stands alone thinking 'I must be a problem, I'm obviously not worth anything because there is nobody here'."

Image copyright University of Manchester
Image caption Lemn Sissay has written poetry and plays and was installed as chancellor at Manchester University in October

The 48-year-old said his own early Christmas memories were "without family in virtually empty children's homes with staff who didn't want to be there".

"You have this secret room inside yourself and as Christmas approaches you draw back to that room. Each time you hear or feel the nature of family you are reminded of what you just do not have."

Mr Sissay said he believes people continue to feel isolated at Christmas after leaving care.

The first Christmas dinner took place in Manchester in 2013 and was extended to a second city, London, in 2014.

The money has been raised through crowd funding.

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