Eighteen years of records written by strangers - reflections on the vital importance of accuracy

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Lucy Famakinwa, an executive assistant in the children law team, considers the significance of her role in the lives of the children in care whose cases she works on.

Over the past three years working in the children law team as an executive assistant I have learned a number of key skills including organisation, time management, communication, attention to detail and professionalism.

As an avid reader and with my experience in children law a memoir titled My Name is Why by Lemn Sissay caught my attention. 

It details Sissay’s experience of being in care during the 1980s as he takes a look back through his care records.

Sissay’s time being long-term fostered was a difficult and prejudicial time for him; with no consideration given for his race and culture.

It is hoped times have moved on somewhat now and from my experience a great focus is given on placing children with families who are of a cultural match, or who are at least able to able to acknowledge and promote the child’s familial heritage.

What resonated with me most though (aside from the discrimination he faced) is how many mistakes and errors there are in Sissay’s records. His name is misspelt; date of birth wrong and the reporting of various meetings and events in his life are littered with inconsistencies. This deeply moving memoir led me to think of my own role in the lives of children in the care system and how important my administrative work is.

Lemn Sissay has used his time in care as motivation to achieve and is a successful poet. In 2012 he was the official poet of the London Olympics. He uses his platform to help other young people in care, particularly through his charity The Gold from the Stone Foundation which raises and distributes funds for young people in care to have meals and presents for Christmas. 

Sissay’s memoir has inspired me to take pride in my own work. To take even greater care when drafting any paperwork and to be extra vigilant when reading various papers we receive from others to make sure any errors I spot are rectified immediately.

Attention to detail is crucial as an assistant and this is how I can make a difference. By flagging typos and minor errors in records we can ensure they’re not continually repeated and that if children wish to view their records as adults they can (hopefully) do so without the disappointment and hurt of seeing their own name misspelt.

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