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This month with Paul McLain

Deputy Leader of Gloucestershire County Council and Cheltenham Borough Councillor

Politicians accumulate important sounding titles like kids hoard the latest collectables – whether it’s Match Attax trading cards or Hello Kitty paraphernalia. Long suffering parents, you know what I’m talking about!

One of my many titles is Corporate Parent. How can you be a corporate parent and if you can - is a politician really the best choice? It’s like putting a banker in charge of a charity and a bishop in charge of a brothel. At first glance they don’t exactly go hand in hand.

At any given time there are nearly 500 children in care in Gloucestershire. Some only stay in care for a few weeks as we sort out problems at home, at school, with family health or breakdown. Sadly others will spend their entire childhood in care. As corporate parent, they’re all my children. Gloucestershire has a great network of foster carers who do a brilliant job. (If you’re at all interested in becoming a foster carer, please get in contact 01452 427416).

It’s what these children have experienced and missed out on before they come into care that makes my role so important. I’m passionate about taking part in sport, as I think it brings real benefits for children’s health, their self-esteem, confidence and social skills. Recently the council arranged for young carers and children in care to try out new sports at a special event. Sports clubs and organisations from football to horse riding and tennis to rowing went along to provide taster sessions.

Riding is great and anyone that’s ever seen or helped out with Riding for the Disabled, will know the tremendous rapport that builds between horse and rider. When I was told that a number of our older boys
wanted to take up boxing, my first reaction was a massive intake of breath. Actually they’ve made a great choice; boxing requires tremendous discipline and the coaches are tough, no-nonsense and won’t tolerate bad behaviour. They’re probably the first decent male role models these boys have ever had.

Maybe one of our boys will even get to the Olympics in 2016. Wouldn’t that be something?