The charity’s staff looked after him though, offering support and reassurance at every turn. More than anything, he remembers how kind they were to him, focused entirely on unwriting the subconscious lessons he’d absorbed, which had forced him to grow old beyond his years. For the first time in his life, he could be a child.
“We went to a water park with a swimming pool – it was one of the first times I’d ever been swimming, we played games, we did activities, I remember staying up late – it felt like a big sleepover,” he says.
“I remember absolutely loving it. For the first time I met other children who were in the same position as me and being able to talk to them was so eye-opening. I didn’t feel alone anymore. I’d simply never experienced anything like it before.”
What Elliott really took from the trip was an idea that he could be his own person, beyond his caring responsibilities. “It gave me breathing room to figure myself out, empower myself, and to think about what I wanted,” he says.
That was the seed which, in time, would germinate and grow within the young man. “I always had a passion for helping people but I began to realise how many young people felt voiceless, had bad social workers and weren’t being heard,” Elliott explains. “No one thinks children should be around drugs but they are – I was, I couldn’t escape it – and as I got older I gradually began to realise what a taboo subject was. No one wanted to talk to young people about drugs and parental substance abuse and someone had to.”
Applying himself at school, Elliott finally had something on his horizon, and a fire under him. “I studied Health And Social Care in sixth-form and then when I started applying to university, I pursued a social work course, and now I’m a social worker myself. I love helping families. Whether they’re in similar situations to the one I grew up in or they’re facing different things, I am never more motivated than when I’m helping them face those challenges and keeping children safe.”
Now, the tables have turned: it’s Elliott who refers young people in care for Go Beyond holidays. The difference he sees in them after, he says, is nothing short of astonishing.
“They come back with more confidence,” he says. “They’re empowered, and just like me, they come back with the ability to think about themselves and what they want. One who was really struggling to go into school everyday came back from Go Beyond and is now going into school every day and applying themselves.”
Elliott and his sister were placed in foster care in 2014, and their mother passed away from a drug overdose a few years later. Having spent so long with him caring for her, it took the pair a while to feel like siblings again. “I had her round for tea last week,” he says. “She’s 13 now and we’ve finally got a normal relationship. Now we chat, and fight, and laugh like siblings.”
At 22, with a bright future ahead of him, Elliott’s is a story of tenacity, perseverance, and hope, but he credits it all to that one week stay with Go Beyond. “I just want to reiterate how amazing this charity is,” he summarises. “I don’t know what more there is to say than that.”
*Due to the nature of his work, Elliott’s name has been altered.