Last month, care-experienced young people (those aged 16 and above who have formally been looked after by Wokingham Borough Council) came together to mark National Care Leavers Week.
Founded by charity Become, the week offers the opportunity to celebrate the achievements of those who have left care, as well as highlighting the need for ongoing support beyond the age of 18.
The theme this year was #EndTheCareCliff, calling for the Independent Review of Children’s Social Care to re-imagine what support looks like for young people leaving care, especially those who feel cut off from support at a time when stability is key.
Support for those leaving care
Here4U, the council’s team that supports those leaving care and beyond, brought together the young people to take on a staff team in a football match. After a nail-biting match, the Here4U staff team were defeated and the young people ultimately came out victorious.
The council is proud of what local care-experienced young people have achieved. This year alone, three of the young people have graduated university, with one holding their own art exhibition and another working as a qualified pharmacist.
More young people are following their educational aspirations and completing college courses, starting apprenticeships, working and heading off to university. The council’s team have been happy to received feedback from young parents who were previously in care, that they feel supported to parent their own children in a way that is different from their own childhood experiences.
Care Leavers Forum
Over the next couple of months, the council will be launching a new Care Leavers Forum, enabling young people in the borough to use their experiences to help shape current and future services, as well as hosting an annual Christmas dinner, cooked by the Here4U staff.
“We know that those in care are amongst our most vulnerable residents and face more challenges than their peers,” said Councillor Prue Bray, executive member for children’s services. “They are more likely to struggle with things like their health and wellbeing, homelessness and finding work.
“Here4U offers them ongoing support and stability that others take for granted. The young people who were formerly in our care are achieving some quite remarkable things and we are going to support them, especially as times get more challenging.“
The council is committed to supporting these young people, and sets out the support that is available in its Local Offer for Care Leavers, which was developed with local care leavers and the Children in Care Council.
When leaving care, young people are linked with a personal advisor who will continue to support them as they grow into adulthood.
While some of the support given is practical, such as support with finding accommodation, getting into education, finding a job, accessing health services and money management, a central part is the emotional and relationship-based support.
This involves being there and celebrating those ‘rites of passage’ that others their age would ordinarily experience with their families, such as setting up home, celebrating birthdays and festive occasions, and achievements such as exam results and new jobs.
“Care leavers can be more vulnerable than their peers,” continued Cllr Prue Bray, “and so our local offer ensures that they aren’t alone as they navigate their way into young adulthood.”
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