National Care Leavers’ Week is an opportunity to reflect on the services we provide to our care experienced young people, how we can improve their lives and help them to feel safe, supported, confident and ready for the future.
In Somerset we partner with Somerset County Council to deliver supported housing for looked after children aged 16 and 17, care leavers and young people with identified support needs and we work closely with colleagues in housing and Children’s Social Care to provide an integrated multi-agency and trauma-informed service that operates in a person-centred way.
We provide 87 bedspaces across Mendip and South Somerset utilising our own stock but also working with registered providers and the private sector to offer a range of accommodation across both districts: a children’s home for 16- and 17-year-olds; Foyer accommodation with 24/7 staffing; shared housing in the community and self-contained flats, some suitable for young families. We also provide floating support to facilitate a smooth transition into independent living.
As well as providing accommodation, we also provide the support needed to develop independent living skills and transition into adulthood. That might be learning to cook, opening a bank account, applying for college or starting work but it is just as importantly building relationships, restoring faith in the world and championing every little step on that journey to empower people to gain a sense of self and place in the world and recognise their talents.
Care leavers and young people often suffer from negative press but one of the privileges of our work is to be able to celebrate their many successes and capabilities. At the time of writing, I am so proud that we have:
- 17 young people in work (one is working for one of our contractors) and others volunteering (one with horses and another as a football referee);
- A care leaver apprentice volunteering in one of our projects and inspiring others to work in social care;
- Several young people in education, ranging from functional English and Maths, to plumbing and also open university business and mental health nursing courses;
- Many, many young people informally supporting one another from move in to move out;
- Young people involved in recruitment and showing visitors around our projects and sharing their experiences with Commissioners and professionals.
I would ask you, what opportunities can you give a young person to thrive?