EPIC 20th Anniversary Article Series
Part Two: An EPIC Journey – 2005 – 2016
By Jennifer Gargan
In 2011 IAYPIC undertook a renaming and rebranding process and became EPIC. Frances Fitzgerald, Minister for Children and Youth Affairs launched EPIC in 2012.
During this period, Atlantic Philanthropies invited EPIC to submit a proposal for further funding. This would be their last grant and was a potential opportunity for EPIC to leverage funding not only to build on the Policy and Research work of the previous grant period but also to further develop our core work, direct advocacy work with children and young people. Atlantic Philanthropies and the One Foundation provided funding for EPIC to develop the next Strategic Plan 2013 – 2015, develop EPIC’s National Advocacy Service, increase the Research function, build on the Advocacy and Policy work of EPIC and develop New Media communications capacity within the organisation.
In 2012 we expanded the advocacy service with additional staff and opened offices in Cork and Galway. In 2015 with funding from the Tony Ryan Trust, we expanded our presence in the west with an office in Limerick. Over the next few years the direct work with children and young people went from strength to strength. Between 2012 and 2017 the annual number of Advocacy cases rose from 120 to 589, each and every case representing a child or young person who needed help and support and someone to listen to what they had to say. In 2015, with funding from the Atlantic Philanthropies, EPIC and the Children’s Rights Alliance purchased a building together with the aim of bringing together a range of organisations supporting the rights of children and establishing a national Children’s Hub.
We developed a Visiting Advocacy service to all the Special Care, High Support Services, Oberstown Detention Schools and Dochas prison. We developed a Youth Board and Children’s Fora to ensure that we heard the views and listened to the experiences of children all across the country and learned from their different experiences both positive and negative.
Young people were always central to our work, which was based on building trusting and respectful relationships, ensuring that young people’s views informed our policy advocacy work and helped to bring about positive change in the care system. Promoting opportunities for young people to speak out in the media, at conferences and meeting with key policy and decision makers contributed widely to raising awareness of the issues they faced on a daily basis. In addition, how services needed to change and improve to keep them safe and help them to have the same opportunities and outcomes as their peers.
During the 11⅟2 years of working in EPIC and meeting young people on a daily basis, I never ceased to be astounded by their honesty and bravery. Many of them encountered obstacles that most adults would be unable to overcome. Their ability to speak out about their experiences touched so many people and helped to influence change in practice and policy. Without them EPIC would have been unable to achieve what it has and become the organisation it is today.
The success of this journey would not have happened without some other people who made it possible. These include the amazing and committed staff in EPIC who gave of themselves totally and never left a child or young person without their help and support. The many members of the IAYPIC and EPIC Boards, our funders, the public- private and philanthropic, our colleagues within the children’s sector, the hardworking social workers and foster carers and the many others who met us and supported us along the way.