An Open Letter to John Lewis

Author: TACT

Nicola; who leads TACT Connect, our care-experienced community, has shared her thoughts on this year’s John Lewis Christmas advert in an open letter to the company.

Almost a week has passed since your annual Christmas advert dropped, and what an interesting week it’s been. The advert flew around our TACT Connect community at quite a speed. We watched as you captured the experience many have had on being received into foster care. The relief was real. Many of our TACT Connect members felt not just seen – but seen on mainstream TV! It was moving to see this experience captured and for our community to be brought into the limelight with such sensitivity and accuracy.

That said, not everyone was as touched by it. Some people remarked that it was underwhelming, some spoke of it being somewhat depressing and, as is often the case, Twitter was emotionally-charged with surprise, relief and opinions.

With your Christmas advert still being spoken about, we wanted to reflect on the strengths and vulnerabilities it highlighted in our own community, as well as what we feel you’re offering by broadcasting this now.

There is no denying that, on a strengths basis, many in our community are walking a little taller. There is a feeling of being seen as people and less as a commodity or statistic. Many now somehow feel known, and this lands comfortably given the time of year and the oddness of not really knowing how to describe the weirdness of Christmas for some of us who are care-experienced.

The challenges are, as some have touched on, that this will be a hard watch for those parents whose children have been removed from their care, and there’s no denying that children who have recently been placed within a fostering family may also find this an emotive watch. We must not forget those children and adults who never wanted to be separated from their family.

When we think about what this advert offers to our care-experienced community, it’s important to take a breath, because it’s big, it’s considered, it’s real, and it’s leveling the playing field.

By creating this advert, you have demonstrated true allyship. This clearly hasn’t been pulled together over a short period of time; the accuracy and consideration of the experience of being placed in foster care has been well researched. Yes, care-experienced people from across the UK have been involved with the making of this, but to achieve this you’ll likely have invested a huge amount of time in creating a safe space for people with lived experience of trauma to speak openly. It looks and feels like you’ve truly listened and then co-created! On top of this, you’ve pledged to Build Happier Futures by offering substantial job opportunities, given your partnership with the wonderful Drive Forward. As if that wasn’t enough, you’ve arranged for donations to be made for Christmas trees and a further 25% donation from your famous teddy to Who Cares Scotland and Action for Children.

We can see you’re making efforts to be the best kind of ally. You’ve taken risks, you’ve raised the positive presence of the care experience and lastly (but maybe mostly) you’ve set the bar high for other organisations to follow in your footsteps towards being restorative and are making efforts to be a safe pair of hands for our community.

And for this, our Connect community would like to say thank you. Thank you for not only opening your doors to care-experienced people, but for doing this with such care and consideration, all the while modelling how this can be done in other organisations! Thank you for listening and then acting on what you heard. We appreciate you!

– Nicola, TACT Connect Lead