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An Alternative ‘Christmas Carol’ For The Future Of Children’s Homes

An alternative ‘Christmas Carol’ for the Future of Children’s Homes

An Appeal to the People of England, on behalf of the children who need Children’s Homes

Charles Dickens had an alternative title for A Christmas Carol

Originally intending to write a political pamphlet titled, An Appeal to the People of England, on behalf of the Poor Man’s Child he changed his mind and instead wrote A Christmas Carol which voiced his social concerns[1].

Let us sit and talk a while.

We have been good partners for years.

Have we now lost our common purpose? Does it take a small child to show us how we are now, joined in our grasping of money whilst talking of the well-being of children less? Now our talk is of business, of cash boxes and ledger books. We do not talk with each other but at each other, neither party listening to the other, neither considering our shared social responsibility.

We are able to help the poor and needy; the abused; those living with a disability. We know that this is our common purpose. How shall we achieve it?

Surely, we are all in purgatory early? We talk as to ghosts, seeing through our talk to what is behind, not the difference between transparency and invisibility.

We do not have years to wait. Are we not comfortable? There is enough to share and turn to happiness. Compassion is not enough.

We are weighed down by our chains, yet we are comfortable, but only in our own, not the common place. Have we not forged our chains by our dallying in debate between us when we could direct our common cause to the Chancellor? Then, do we wear our chains willingly? We both know that for either one of us to be brought down will do children no good. We both know that though either divest themselves of their surplus it will not be enough to meet the need, and a good, safe, secure, and loving home, for all children. By our lack of common claim upon the Chancellor our compassion is foremost for ourselves and each other not children. Yet each of us has a monstrous weighty safe attached to their ankle. We cry piteously at being unable to assist. We act as if we have time. Our talk is of solutions, but it only achieves mitigation, an amelioration of our own concerns for ourselves. We have time but children do not, each day is one they shall not have returned. We talk of difference, so safe to do so, but not our indifference by avoiding truths before us. We argue about the cost that each must pay whilst we neglect the cost that all children must pay for our failure to work together. We argue about which of us deserves the greater proportion of the funds when we all know, but do not act to challenge, the miserable amount that is allocated to care for children’s care. Whilst we work within an underfunded compromised sector then we will deliver under cared for children, the meeting of their needs daily compromised. Yes, we seek to interfere, for good, in human matters, but are losing the power, settling for ‘it is what it is.’ What is before us is not all that there has been, is, and can be.

Three spirits will visit us each offering the chance of escaping our present fate.

The first will come when the clock tolls one, the second the next night at the same hour, and the third upon the third night when the clock has reached the last stroke of midnight.

These are the heralds of the choice, of misanthropy, or philanthropy.


I am the ghost of Christmas Past.

See the large institutions, the tall or the many homes inside gated grounds set apart from others.

Large buildings became cottage homes, village style with a number of homes grouped together, each supervised by a ‘houseparent.’

I am young and old. I am here and there. I am near and distant. I am not a shadow but a figure in your life. I do not shimmer and flicker but burning bright in conscience as a clear jet of light. I do not recede from sight. I am as distinct and clear as ever.

Rise! and walk with me!

Let us consider that I am your child. You are my parent. Why does my parent not speak loudly for all to hear? It is not your mortal money that is sought. Why do you defend what is not yours? Is it you think you deserve praise before advocacy? What is it that prevents you from crossing the line?

You have the power to render children happy, to unburden them, and by doing so to make your service light, a toil certainly but equally a pleasure and privilege. Your power lies in words and actions. Such advocacy is so slight and insignificant that it is impossible to add and count them up. What then? So, what? The happiness you can give is quite as great as if it cost a fortune. It is not your fortune. That is secure.

There is opportunity before you for this haunting to be no longer.

Do you not see that when you speak the light that I am burns bright?

We cannot be to each other as solitary as an oyster.


I am the ghost of Christmas Present

See the ordinary house in an ordinary street with people doing extraordinary things. Family-style groups of children in ordinary houses, going to local schools. See the need for ordinary devoted parenting and therapeutic preoccupation. Diversity and creativity rather than a regime and compliance.

See children needing short-term or relatively ‘ordinary’ substitute care for whom good quality daily care and support can be identified.

See children whose needs are deep rooted and complex with a long history of disability, difficulty or disruption, including abuse or neglect. These children require more than simply a substitute family care. They need individualised care in a safe and containing environment to move from being unsafe, self-harming or unpredictable and to stabilise and manage their own lives.

See children with extensive, complex and enduring needs compounded by very difficult behaviour who require more specialised and intensive resources.

Is it not the case that we live in times that can afford generosity and goodwill to all?

Is a child’s life today to be of refuge or resource?

Can we not have a hand open in welcome?

Do we not live in age of opulence? Could we not all be living with good things around us? Why do we choose it for our own children and not for others? Could not others know this better too?

See all that is in your parlour? The gifts, the foods.

Is our Present not capacious?

Do we speak as if this is the condition of all? And if we do, shall we not cringe from the artifice?

Should not geniality and cheer be unconstrained demeanour? Should not all experience joy?

So, shall we agree that we shall be judged by the morality of our deeds and not the justification for them? Or are we ourselves to be the embodiment of Ignorance and Want?

What will it take to restore, and reanimate? Or do we let lie under the rolling waves of years which surely repeat the destruction of the past?


I am the ghost of Christmas yet to come

See the multiple homes inside gated grounds.

Ofsted Registering a multi-building children’s homes

Registering a multi-building children’s home – GOV.UK (

This guidance reflects the changing ways in which services for children are being delivered, the increasing demand for solo and specialised placements, and the need for more flexible and responsive provision for children.

You may apply to register a children’s home where the care and accommodation is provided in more than one building. You can accommodate up to 6 children in up to 4 buildings within this one single registration. We call this a ‘multi-building children’s home

Do we fear this silent shape? It is neither mysterious nor silent.

Future fate is not set in stone but can be changed by changing our actions in the present.

Answer one question, are these the shadows of the things that Will be, or are they shadows of things that May be, only?

Courses will foreshadow certain ends, to which, if persevered in, they must lead, but the courses be departed from, the ends will change.

I am not the person I was. I will not be the person I must have been 

The kind hand trembled.

What choice for a child to live in the Past, the Present, or the Future? It is not too late.

[1] This piece is creatively adapted from Dickens and Wikipedia The ghosts of Christmas Past/ Present/Future. These have been considerably added to and amended by the group of writers contributing.