Hertfordshire County Council have been challenged to help end the stigma that can come with having been in care.

Children are asking the authority to help them make a difference because they feel "judged" for having been in the care system, and struggle to make a first impression, particularly with employers.

They are launching a ‘Project Positive’ campaign to highlight the achievements and successes of care leavers.

But in the meantime they’ve asked members of the county council’s children, young people and families cabinet panel to commit to speaking out whenever they heard something negative about those in care.

Putting the case at Friday’s meeting (September 7) was 18-year-old Kelly, who’s a member of Hertfordshire’s Children in Care Council (CHICC).

“We want to ask for a personal commitment that every time you hear something negative about a care leaver you will challenge it,” Kelly told members.

“And we ask that you proactively talk about care leavers as being good people to give opportunities to and to support.”

Nationally, statistics show that children who have been in care are significantly less likely to go to university and significantly more likely to be convicted of a crime.

But Kelly wants councillors to help people to see beyond the statistics.

After the meeting, she said: “If you’re doing well in life, people are actually shocked to hear you’re a care leaver, as if care leavers don’t succeed.

“It’s frustrating because we’re all individuals and not just statistics.”

Earlier this year Kelly and other members of CHICC presented their experiences of being in care to councillors.

Bullying, education, training and mental health support offered in schools were among the issues and experiences highlighted by the children and young people.

At Friday’s meeting a report was presented that highlighted actions the council was taking to counter the issues raised.

One young person had revealed how she was bullied after classmates found she was in foster care – and how her response to that led to her losing her school place.

Others pointed to the varying levels of support they had received in school. Several children highlighted times when they didn’t have a school place at all.

One young person’s account had revealed how difficult she had found it to access support after she had turned 21.

In their report council officers pointed to training for foster careers to identify and address bullying, designated teachers for looked after children and raising awareness of mental health issues in schools.

It also focussed on the role of the Virtual School, the monitoring of looked after children without a school to go to, support offered to young people at college and the promotion of Higher Education.

All children in care are invited to become members of CHICC – as soon as they become ‘looked after’ by the County Council.

Commenting on the challenge to councillors at the meeting, a spokesperson for Hertfordshire County Council said: “CHICC wanted to ask the members of Children’s Services Panel to each make a personal commitment to challenging negative stereotypes and proactively promoting care leavers.

“They were asked directly because they have a high level of responsibility as ‘corporate parents’, and are the champions of our young people n care and care leavers.”