On Saturday 17th February, charity Coram Voice announced the winners of Voices 2024, its national writing competition for children in care and young care leavers, at a ceremony hosted in London by actor Peter Capaldi alongside former Voices competition winner, Claire Wilden.

Coram Voice is a leading children’s rights organisation, championing the rights of children in care and care leavers. They get young voices heard in decisions that matter to them and work to improve their lives thorough their advocates, their helpline and work such as A National Voice. The Voices creative writing competition is a unique way for young children in care and care leavers to tell us about their experiences.

The competition encourages young people to enter any written content of 500 words or under in any form. This could be inspiring stories, poems, raps, articles or anything else that fits the theme. The top rated writing is then shortlisted for the awards ceremony with winners selected in each of the four categories: primary, lower secondary, upper secondary and care leavers.

As well as being a celebration and showcase of the creativity, talent and imagination of children in care and care leavers, Voices also aims to improve understanding of the experience of care by giving care-experienced young people the chance to tell their own stories.

Since it begun, the Voices competition has shared the experiences of hundreds of children in care and care leavers who have entered.

Peter Capaldi, who has hosted the competition since 2017, said: “I’ve supported the Voices competition for a number of years and am always blown away by the talent of the children and young people taking part. It’s an honour to read their words and the competition is so important in helping us all to better understand their lives and experiences.” 

The theme of this year’s competition was ‘What Makes Me Different’, and 25 children and young people were shortlisted across four age categories: primary (age 4-10), lower secondary (age 11-14), upper secondary (age 15-17) and care leavers (age 18-25). 

Now in its eighth year, the Voices competition, sponsored by UK management consultancy Cadence Innova, is a positive and celebratory platform for young people in or leaving care to express their feelings creatively and help build understanding around what it means to be care-experienced. With poems that were described as “breathtaking” by the judges including myself and authors Patrice Lawrence and Emma Norry, the young finalists showed their enormous potential and talent.

The Voices 2024 winners are: 

Winner of the Primary category: ‘Different?’ by Mali, age 8

Judges Abi Elphinstone and Deborah Maclaren said: “This uplifting poem, full of resilience and spirit, has brilliant rhymes and beautiful metaphors. It shows how all our experiences in the ‘tapestry of life’ may shape us but not define us. We can choose what we take away.”

Winner of the Lower Secondary category: ‘Caught in the system’ by Georgia, age 13

Judges Emma Norry and Callen Martin said: “This rap song immediately caught our attention. We loved everything about it, the rhythm and rhyme, as well the title, it wasn’t just a response to the prompt. It celebrates the resilience and determination of all care leavers who ‘rise above the hardship and trials’ to find their ‘brilliance’!”

Winner of the Upper Secondary category: ‘What makes me different’ by Evan, age 17 

Judges Patrice Lawrence and Jordan Morgan said: “The author captures the challenges of coming out and not growing up in an environment of openness. They describe the awful lack of control of being outed when the closet door is flung open and the sense of exposures and ultimate rejection that it created for them. While highlighting the sense of shame that young people are made to feel about gender and sexuality and the authentic language, beautiful imagery and rhyming couplets also offered a sense of hope.”

Winner of the Care Leaver category: ‘What makes me different, as told by a 21st Century Bard’ by Ira 

Judges Chris Wild and Rebekah Pierre said: “The writer has cleverly responded not only to the theme within the content of their piece, but also through the tone, character and style of the prose. It encapsulates the essence of difference, and celebrates diversity in various forms. It was a pleasure to read this theatrical entry.” 

The 2024 competition culminated in the most wonderful afternoon: it was such a special celebration of their creativity. A huge thank you to each and every child who entered the competition, we thank you. You are awesome.

I had the absolute privilege of being invited to be a judge this year. It was such a sobering yet inspirational experience reading the incredible pieces of creativity, hearing these children put themselves out there with such bravery. Writing about their innermost thoughts, sharing what makes them different. The quality of the writing was truly remarkable. And then having to judge their entries. Awe-inspiring.

Brigid Robinson, Managing Director of Coram Voice, said: “It has been a joy to read the competition entries and see how children and young people have taken this theme and responded with an enormous diversity of poems, stories and songs. I am amazed by their talent, creativity and resilience. A huge and very well deserved thank you  to all the children and young people who have shared their voices with us and helped other young care experienced people to feel seen and heard. We are so proud of all of you, and hope so many others will be inspired by their stories.”

Gita Singham-Willis, Founding Partner at Cadence Innova, said: “Supporting Coram Voice and their crucial work with children and young people in care, is something we are immensely proud of. The Voices Awards is an inspiring competition that champions children’s creativity and enables them to express themselves – a purpose very close to our heart at Cadence Innova as we continue our mission to bring on positive change for individuals and society as a whole.”

For more information on the competition and to read the shortlisted pieces, please visit coramvoice.org.uk/get-involved/voices-creative-writing-competition/

Do look out for the 2025 competition to help give a voice to any young children in care and care leavers out there, to tell us about their experiences.