Member News: St Christopher's - Staying Close praised for “encouraging secure, long-term social networks”
St Christopher’s Fellowship is “encouraging secure, long-term social networks” for care leavers, according to an evaluation released by the Department for Education.
The report on the children’s charity’s Staying Close model, released on Tuesday 3 November by the DfE Innovation Programme, highlights “the pilot’s genuine desire to allow young people to gain autonomy and its ability to actively engage young people in decision making”.
The Staying Close model works within four children’s homes in the London Boroughs of Ealing and Hounslow to support young people transitioning from care to independence, with reflective practice facilitated by MAC-UK. Young people co-produce plans for professionals on what they want to support their transition including life skills sessions, trialling move-on accommodation and regular contact with people they care about.
The evaluation explores how St Christopher’s meets the four key aims of the pilot, which were relationship management, stable education, employment or training (EET), independent living skills and wellbeing.
Authentic relationships between young people and their care workers, which develop how relationships typically would outside of the care system, have been key to the success of the project. “[It’s] human, it’s normal, because at the end of the day, if that was your family, and you progressed and you went on to have children, or study, or whatever… that’s the sort of relationship you would have,” shared one young person in the report.
Project partners at Ealing and Hounslow have already implemented policies on expectations and boundaries for relationships based on learning from St Christopher’s Staying Close.
Having relationships with people who want them to succeed has given care leavers support to sustain education, training and employment. The report describes this as “invaluable, with one of the young people stating that they would not be able to go to university if they were not part of the Staying Close programme”.
Support from a dedicated life skills worker allowed young people to feel confident that they could ask for help when they needed it. “Young people benefiting from the project stated that they ‘felt safer’ as it was as though they had a ‘safety net’ but also still had their independence,” the evaluation found.
To improve wellbeing, move-on accommodation and regular, planned contact with children’s home staff allows young people to transition gradually so they can experience independence without feeling isolated. “All of the young people felt that this support was useful, particularly for those with existing mental ill-health issues,” explains the report.
The project is now expanding across all St Christopher’s children’s homes and semi-independent accommodation in the UK.
Jonathan Whalley, Chief Executive, said: “I am thrilled that St Christopher’s Staying Close is succeeding in maintaining those key supportive relationships for young people as they leave care. Thank you to everyone for their commitment in developing the pilot, especially to the young people for their invaluable wisdom and insight.”
The Foster Care Co-operative (FCC), has taken part in ground-breaking research committed to removing barriers that could prevent disabled people from becoming foster carers. The National Lottery-funded research, Mutual Benefits: The Potential of Disabled People as Foster Carers, marked the first user-led disability research programme in the world.
Gail Granger, one of FCC’s Senior Social workers, lent her experience to the two-year landmark project which was in collaboration with the University of Worcester and Shaping Our Lives (a national network of disabled service users), which concluded that disabled people could contribute to the pool of foster carers, to care and provide homes for vulnerable children.
Inaccessible buildings, information systems, support structures and medical assessments were highlighted as the key barriers for people with disabilities. However, training sessions delivered to fostering agency staff as part of the research resulted in a change of attitude and approach – and it is hoped that other organisations within the fostering sector will follow suit.
Steve Field, Director of Child Care at The Foster Care Co-operative, said: “From the get-go, as a not-for-profit ‘co-operative’ fostering agency, we adopted an ethical and inclusive approach, from foster carer recruitment right through to staff recruitment. It is important to recognise skills and competences across a diverse population, including people from different ethnic backgrounds, sexual orientations, religions and, as this research has quite rightly pointed out, from people with disabilities. We are very proud of the contribution that Gail has made to this project, and we fully embrace and support any changes required to help encourage more people with disabilities towards fostering”.
According to The Fostering Network, one of the UK’s leading fostering charities, an additional 8,600 new foster carers are needed across the UK this year alone, to help make a difference to children’s lives.
TACT is delighted to announce that it has received a grant of £475,000 from the Big Lottery Fund to continue the TACT Connect service which provides much needed support for our care experienced people across England.
TACT believes that parenting does not stop at 18, 21 or 25. We have a lifelong duty of care towards our foster children. TACT Connect is an innovative new scheme that aims to address the high levels of isolation and mental health issues affecting those that have left care, by offering a lifetime support network for those who have been fostered through TACT, promoting and creating opportunities and facilitating peer mentoring. There are currently 150 TACT Connect members and this is constantly growing.
TACT Connect Coordinator Verity Lindley said: “Care experienced adults are already vulnerable to social isolation and the pandemic is only making the problem worse. Thanks to this money from the Big Lottery Fund, we can start to build a supportive community with continued access to information, support, opportunities and life-long friendships. It is vital that we do better to ensure care-experienced adults are supported and celebrated.”
Though each care leaver has had a unique journey through the care system and beyond, TACT recognises that they are a community with shared experiences, who often face discrimination, disadvantage and specific challenges. In comparison with their peers, care experienced people are more likely to be unemployed or not in education or training, with over a third of 19-year-old olds being in this category (Department of Education 2015).
Mental health issues are also prevalent; one in four care experienced people have faced a mental health crisis since leaving care (Barnardo’s 2017). Both isolation and lack of opportunity are issues that have become more urgent due to the pandemic.
TACT CEO Andy Elvin said: “It’s important as a parent that you stay in touch with and support your children throughout their lives. The state can be a not so great parent because once people have left care at 18 or 21, it doesn’t know what’s going on in their lives. So, TACT Connect is our way of addressing that and we are very grateful to the Big Lottery Fund for enabling the service to grow”.
TACT Connect is driven and shaped by its care-experienced community and six of its members have recently been appointed as special Advisers, tasked with using their experience of the care system to ensure the service meets the needs of other care experienced people.
When Jarra, one of the TACT Connect Advisers, left care and her foster family at 18, it was an overwhelming experience, and she suffered bouts of loneliness.
Jarra says: “I know how difficult it can be to leave care and your foster family, so I understand the problems that new care leavers often face, and I look forward to sharing with them how I coped. I also want to show them that there is a lot of help out there, especially from TACT Connect, which can give them the chance to meet new people with similar experiences and provide advice and support with things like education, careers, and independent living”
TACT Connect Adviser, Iqra, says: “Feelings of isolation are affecting everyone and for care leavers this can be amplified. In my new role as a TACT Connect Advisor, we are all working together to keep everyone connected. I consider this role to be so important. I have been through similar experiences as the young people who are part of the group and I hope this allows them to feel seen, heard and understood.”
This year young people leaving care and families who have children with additional needs have been put under extra strain. Across the country, there has been a 107% rise in children receiving emergency food. With the additional impact of Covid and a second lockdown, we’re not sure what Christmas will look like for many of the people we support, but we want them to know that they are not alone.
"I was taken into care as a newborn baby because my mum had an abusive partner. I was put under special guardianship with family friends for a while. Then I lived with my mum again for seven years, until she passed away and I was taken into foster care. My transition into independence was really smooth thanks to the Together Trust. They helped me to get some furniture for my flat and things like a fridge, freezer and washing machine. I had a really close connection with everyone who works at the charity. After I left care they could have just turned their back on me, but they didn’t."
" I know they are still there for me now and that makes a massive difference."
*Anthony's name has been changed to protect his identity
We're raising money to fill hampers to distribute to families and young people who are living below the poverty line and there are lots of ways you can get involved:
Do you run a business and your company Christmas party been cancelled but you are looking to use the money for a good cause?
Is your community group looking for a local charity to support this Christmas?
Instead of buying Christmas cards this year would you consider donating the money for the cost of one hamper?
You can make a donation today.
Or get in touch with our friendly fundraising team if your community group or company would like to get involved with our appeal by emailing email@example.com
A mobile coffee van business, launched by Break in September 2020, is giving our young care leavers the chance to gain real work experience and new skills to improve their job chances.
Our new Coffee Break project supports young people who have either recently left or are about to leave the care system and live independently for the first time. And it is helping our young people to learn new skills, boost their confidence and give them the best possible chances of securing jobs after leaving care.
Currently based in Norwich two days a week, the coffee van serves hot and cold drinks, sweet and savoury snacks, and is staffed and managed entirely by our young care leavers. All the young people involved are benefitting from some brilliant training and guidance from our project manager, Joe Walden, or ‘the coffee van man’ as we like to call him!
One young care leaver who been instrumental in the launch of the Coffee Break initiative is Jack Nicholls.
Jack moved into his own flat in 2017, and since then has received ongoing support from Break. After grasping the chance to get involved in the Coffee Break project, Jack’s gone from feeling hopeless about finding a job to now working on the van part-time and enthusiastically applying for new opportunities.
Joe Walden, our Enterprise and Youth Development Lead explains; “The world of work can seem scary and daunting for any 18 year old, but for someone leaving the care system, with no family support around them, it comes with lots of extra challenges. The Coffee Break van means young care leavers can discover what they’re really capable of, by engaging them in ‘real’ work, offering training opportunities and the chance to learn new skills which they can take with them for life, all offered in a safe space. If someone is late for work, or they make a mistake, we address it and we help them learn from it without destroying their confidence. It’s all carried out in a supportive way, without the fear of potentially losing that job.”
Jack and a team of five other young people have kickstarted the project. Mentored by Joe, they created a business plan, sourced suppliers, created the branding, designed the layout of the van and considered all the health and safety implications of launching a mobile catering business. They have also completed barista and food hygiene training; skills and qualifications that can help them find work in the future.
Joe adds; “The Coffee Break van is not just about serving lattes. Our young people have gained real business skills that will benefit them for life. Last summer, they joined forces with the UEA Business School to devise a business plan, assessing the project’s viability and costing it all up. They drew up a bid for funding and presented their case to the Break board of trustees and corporate supporters. In July, the funding was approved and by the end of August everything was set up and ready to go. These young people have essentially launched a business. Something many of them thought they would never achieve. And it’s all been done during a global pandemic.”
The Cofffee Break project is part of our Staying Connected services, offering vital support to care leavers, for as long as they need it.
If you’d like to book the coffee van for your office or organisation, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Member News: Action for Children - Staying Put six years on: young people still being forced to leave their foster families before they’re ready
Children who have had the worst start to life are in danger of getting the worst possible start to their adult lives
A new Action for Children report reveals that the policy designed to allow care leavers to remain with their foster families - Staying Put – is being hampered by a lack of funding which means opportunities for young people to stay are being lost.
Giving care leavers the chance to stay
In 2014, the government introduced Staying Put. It empowered young people in foster care to continue to live with their carers up until the age of 21. It meant they didn't have to move out at the age of 18, when they left care.
But six years on, it looks like not all young people who want to stay put can. Research has found that many young people still have to move out of home before they are ready. And funding is the key issue.
Our new report shows that there will be a difference of £15.8 million – rising to more than £18.5 million – between what cash-strapped local authorities are likely to be paying their carers and the government funding local authorities receive for this. And that’s only if the government continues to fund Staying Put at current levels. There’s an even greater difference between the present funding levels and what we estimate is needed to comprehensively cover the costs of Staying Put.
The government has to provide adequate funding to make sure all young people leaving foster care can benefit from the safety and stability that Staying Put offers – particularly now, with the future looking so grim for youth unemployment.
Experiences of young people leaving care
We know that care leavers are at higher risk of becoming homeless than other young people. Approximately 39% of care leavers aged 19, 20 and 21 in England are not in education, employment and training. This is in comparison to 11% of all young people in the UK. And youth unemployment is only rising in the wake of the coronavirus crisis.
Staying Put can help. Young people are able to benefit from a loving and nurturing family environment for longer, giving them time to prepare for independence. This in itself helps hugely when it comes to engaging with education and employment opportunities.
The evidence from the pilots is that young people who stayed put were twice as likely to be in full time education at 19 than those who did not.
Making sure all young people are able to stay with their foster families
The government has been providing local authorities with dedicated funding for Staying Put. Last year, £33 million was set aside for the policy. This was a welcome boost from the almost £22 million in funding granted the year before. But the future of Staying Put funding beyond 2021/22 is still unaccounted for.
We spoke to five different local authorities to find out more. We wanted to know how much Staying Put actually costs, and what the money goes towards.
The bulk of the funding appears to go on payments for foster carers. This is to make sure that offering Staying Put to the young people who need it is affordable. But local authorities made it clear that the funding available to them wasn't enough.
Following these conversations, we were able to model some different funding approaches. To do this, we also used a survey of local authorities by The Fostering Network. This was to find out how much local authorities were currently spending on Staying Put. We projected these approaches forward into 2026. We are urging the government to consider them in order to comprehensively cover the costs of Staying Put.
Amount to be paid to Staying Put carers (in thousands)
We would welcome a guarantee that the government will continue to support local authorities through the Department for Education implementation grant at its current level (Option 6 in the table). However, we know that carers can still struggle to offer Staying Put arrangements even with the level of funding available right now. Our alternative options, set out in the table above, would cover the costs of Staying Put much more effectively - and make it far more affordable for carers.
Our Option 2 would enable carers to receive both an allowance and a fee payment that recognises their skills and expertise. It offers us the best assurance of affordability for carers, and, by extension, the best assurance that all young people in foster care will be able to benefit from the nurturing family environment that Staying Put offers.
And this is crucial. Turning 18 already marks a particularly challenging, uncertain and disruptive time for young people, especially those who are care experienced. But in the middle of a pandemic, some of the effects of which are being most harshly felt by the young, Staying Put is more important now than ever.
Read our report , made possible by our partnership with CBRE.
Team Fostering is 100% committed to promoting the professionalism of foster care.
All of our foster carers have access to comprehensive training and learning opportunities which help in ensuring they are able to develop the necessary skills and knowledge needed to provide the best possible outcomes for children and young people. The agency provides innovative training for foster parents, starting from the initial training foster parents require in order to become an approved carer, right through to induction and core training delivered by internal and external training providers who are experts in their field.
Our training team is led by Training Manager Gill Voase, who has been with Team Fostering for 15 years. Gill has extensive knowledge and understanding of the role of a foster parent and of children and young people in care. As a qualified social worker and trainer with experience of working in residential childcare, fostering and probation services, as well as being a trained nurse, Gill delivers a wide range of training across the agency for foster carers and staff. Gill is supported by Training Officer Jill Mitchell, who has a particular interest in helping foster parents understand children with learning difficulties or disabilities. Jill lectured at colleges across the North East before she joined the agency in 2016, and also delivers a range of courses and workshops for carers at the agency.
"Training resources are exceptional and ensure that foster parents are prepared for their roles. The agency focuses on maintaining a highly skilled workforce of staff and foster carers, both of whom are trained in the theoretical model of practice."
- Ofsted, November 2018
All foster carers are given their own Personal Development Plan (PDP) which is designed to highlight specific training needs and opportunities. PDP’s are updated annually at foster carers' reviews to reflect current and future training requirements and provide an accurate record of all training and professional development.
Over time, foster carer's build their own Training and Learning Portfolio to sit with their PDP. In the portfolio they are expected to collate ongoing evidence of their training and professional development throughout their fostering career. Team Fostering will also tailor a pathway of advanced training opportunities through each Personal Development Plan for foster carers who work within a specialist area of fostering, and for those who wish to progress onto higher level qualifications.
For a full overview of the training programmes delivered at Team Fostering, click here.
“Team Fostering have brokered training from providers who are competent as well as using staff & carer parents who are eloquent and knowledgeable. It was lovely to have the opportunity to do the level 2 (accredited) training in Counselling earlier this year. This gave me the background to understand the different types of counselling that our young person was about to embark on. It was among the most useful training that I have ever done and as it was delivered or a period of time it enabled you to try out aspects of the work in your own circumstances.”
- A Team Fostering foster carer, 2019
If you're interested in learning more about the training Team Fostering provides to new carers, or you're ready to make that first step into fostering, give us a call on 0800 292 2003, leave us an enquiry here, or drop us an email at email@example.com
The 26th October marks the beginning of National Care Leavers week, a time when we highlight and celebrate the successes of care-experienced young people.
Here at The Foster Care Co-operative, we are lucky enough to hear some fantastic stories from young people who have left our care to move on with their lives, and forge successful careers.
Louis, one of our care leavers, said: “No matter how much of a bad start you have had in life, however many setbacks you have experienced – with the right kind of help you can achieve your goals.” Louis very kindly shared his story with us. You can read it here.
Ciara, who recently left university, has been offered a job as a qualified midwife. She sent this wonderful message: “Just want to say a massive thank you. I wouldn’t have met my family and been as successful as I am without your help”.
Many of our foster carers keep in touch with young people who have left their care. Maintaining this relationship can be so important, and it truly reflects the bond that has been established between a carer and a young person.
Ultimately, it is the resilience, determination and sheer ambition of these amazing young people that has brought about their success.
Member News: Barnardo's - Govt urged to take action as overstretched children's services are under further pressure in pandemic
The Chancellor is being urged to ensure that local authority children’s services can give the most vulnerable young people the help they need during these unprecedented times.
New analysis from five leading children’s charities (Action for Children, Barnardo’s, the Children’s Society, NCB and the NSPCC), submitted to the Treasury ahead of the anticipated Comprehensive Spending Review, reveals that even before the pandemic hit these services were facing a funding crisis.
Local authorities were operating in 2018/19 with £2.2 billion less funding for children than in 2010/11, and their decreasing resource was affecting their ability to support and protect young people.
The pandemic has placed these services under further pressure. Local authorities have had to spend an additional £136 million on children’s social care between March and July, even as their income from business rates retention and council tax has plummeted.
There are also signs that the pandemic has led to children being at greater risk of harm due to the perfect storm of increased economic and housing insecurity and stress at home; reduced oversight from professionals and other adults; and increased time online leaving some young people vulnerable.
Children’s charities say that now is the moment to make an investment in children’s social care that is sustainable; able to level up communities by distributing according to need; and delivered through a mechanism that will encourage early intervention.
Coronavirus has placed an already struggling system under unsupportable strain, and is likely to worsen the trend in spending that has seen early intervention services, which aim to prevent situations from reaching a crisis point, lose 46% of their funding over the last decade.
Instead, the ever-diminishing pots of funding available to local authorities have been increasingly spent on the services local authorities are statutorily obliged to deliver and fund.
Spending on these areas, like safeguarding and children in care, rose by 29% since 2010/11. This is partly due to the cost of individual interventions soaring (spending-per-head for Looked After Children was £10,000 more per child since 2010/11), and partly due to an increase in the number of children in care.
22% more children were subject to child protection plans in 2018/19 than in 2010/11, which some local authorities connect to the lack of early intervention work to prevent problems escalating.
However, this increased spending is not leading to improved outcomes for children. Research has highlighted the low educational outcomes for children who have been in contact with the social care system, and they are massively overrepresented in both youth justice and the adult justice system.
Analysis also reveals that these pressures have not been felt equally. Since 2010/11, central Government funding for local authorities with areas of high deprivation has fallen at twice the rate of those in the most affluent parts of England.
These are also the areas where children are facing the greatest challenges, with high levels of unemployment, free school meal eligibility and domestic abuse.
And the need, and poor financial situation, of these authorities is likely to continue to deteriorate: it is the areas with significant levels of deprivation that are most likely to be vulnerable to ongoing disruption from the pandemic.
Javed Khan, Barnardo’s Chief Executive, said: “Even before the pandemic, too many vulnerable children were missing out on vital support. COVID-19 and the recession are driving many more families to breaking point, with mental health needs rising, growing numbers of children in poverty, and the prospect of even more children entering the care system. Particular groups of children, including those from Black, Asian and ethnic minority communities are at greatest risk.
"This is why Barnardo's is delivering a Government-backed programme called See, Hear, Respond, in partnership with more than 80 other organisations, to respond quickly to the needs of young people and their families during the pandemic.
“However, to achieve sustainable, lasting change for children, we need a longer-term funding commitment from the Government to invest in earlier intervention for families in need of help.
“But we also need to spend those resources wisely. That’s why Barnardo’s is taking a radical new approach - working with national and local partners and investing our own resource to co-design and deliver services that change children’s lives, and the system around them, for the better.”
Peter Wanless, Chief Executive of the NSPCC, said: “A decade of under investment by central Government meant local authorities across the country cut back on preventive and early intervention services while spending more on increasingly expensive care placements.
“The crisis will dramatically worsen this unsustainable situation as the risks to children increase while the financial impact undermines local authority’s ability to respond, especially in more deprived areas that have already experienced greatest losses in funding.
“The Chancellor must act decisively to rebuild the capacity of local areas to provide the crucial evidence based support services that will be fundamental to helping children recover from this crisis.
“Papering over the cracks of an underfunded system is simply not an option if the Government is serious about delivering a recovery that levels up for the children most vulnerable to the long-term impact of the pandemic”
Mark Russell, Chief Executive of The Children’s Society, said: “Building back better needs to be more than just a slogan. The Prime Minister needs to put children at the heart of recovery, it is time for urgent investment in children’s services and to make sure the futures of young people from our most deprived communities are the top priority.
“These shocking findings tell us that the areas with the highest levels of children who need the support of social services are those where this help is most at risk owing to a decade of cuts.”
“This analysis also shows that this need is more urgent than before, particularly as these same are the worst hit by the Covid crisis.
“The levelling up agenda needs to be about more than roads and 5G – it needs to deliver sustainable investment in social infrastructure such as children’s centres, youth services and providing top quality support to children in the care system. In turn, these services will strengthen families, support children, and unlock the potential of young people everywhere.”
Imran Hussain, Director of Policy and Campaigns at Action for Children, said: “The coronavirus crisis has crashed into the lives of vulnerable families after a decade of decline in funding for early help services designed to help them before they reach crisis point.
“Now more than ever we need the Prime Minister to put his ‘levelling up’ agenda into action and he should start by adequately funding councils so they can deal with family problems at an early stage.
“It would be irresponsible to have an NHS offering only A&E departments but no primary care or public health services, yet this is the short-sightedness we’re facing in children’s services. A system geared only for crisis guarantees more children will end up in crisis.”
Anna Feuchtwang, Chief Executive of the National Children’s Bureau, said:
“Children’s services were already on the ropes from a steady succession of cuts, but they now have the extra demands on them brought on by the pandemic to cope with. We fear that this added pressure could push some councils over the edge.
“In this context, the notion of intervening early to support children and families is being dropped, as services focus scarce resources on emergency cases.
“The government must step in and properly fund local authorities so they can reach out to children, young people and families before their problems escalate.”
‘You can be gay, straight, single, married, living together, with or without your own children, from any ethnic background and you can hold any religious belief.’
This is a line directly lifted from The Foster Care Co-operative’s brochure, designed to be read by perspective foster carer applicants. It is an attempt to highlight the need for diverse foster carers – from all sections of society. In reality, it doesn’t even come close to an exhaustive list.
Why does FCC need such diverse foster carers?
To start with, fostering should always be inclusive. Anyone, no matter what background, ethnicity, sexual orientation or religious belief, should be encouraged to make a difference to a child’s life. Diversity and inclusion is at the heart of what The Foster Care Co-operative stands for, extending to all areas of the agency, including staff recruitment.
More specifically, FCC seeks diverse carers because the children who need foster homes are equally as diverse. Of course, foster carers have the ability to be flexible with any child in their care. Some adjustments may need to be made within the home to cater for, say, a religious-specific diet. But generally, foster carers are able to adapt, adjust and care for a child no matter what their background or needs may be. And that’s why they are amazing people.
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