The life skills team has been working hard over the last year to make sure young people at St Christopher’s have the right skills and AQAs to help them reach their goals.
When we talk about preparing young people for independence, what we are really doing is supporting them to be interdependent, feel good about themselves, and have the confidence and strength to keep going whilst asking for help when they need to. We are not just preparing them for a specific transition – we are preparing them for life and all the changes and bumps in the road that come with it.
In 2018 young people across the organisation completed 422 AQAs. Because young people are staying in placement for longer, we can work with them for a more extended period of time and support them to engage in more meaningful AQAs that take longer to complete but offer a bigger sense of achievement at the end.
As part of our strategic commitment to improving emotional wellbeing, the team have been making sure young people understand mental health, self-esteem and stress management. Young people and staff said they felt unskilled in this area, so workshops have been delivered to both of them alongside each other as equals.
There have been more than 200 sporting activities including football, swimming, boxing, gym, badminton, yoga and the annual St Christopher’s sports day, which also contribute towards improved emotional wellbeing. Other relevant awards in this area include 32 health and wellbeing sessions and more than 50 creative activity sessions to help young people relax and have fun.
Through our Staying Close pilot, which supports young people with our third strategic aim of lifelong learning and thriving, the life skills team co-created a new transitions programme with young people to support them with practical aspects of preparing to move into their own home. One young person has completed this and is now successfully living independently, and nine others are about to start their journey on the programme.
Other achievements relating to lifelong learning and thriving include 21 tenancy and home sessions, 28 money, budgeting and debt management certificates, and more than 50 employability skills sessions including assertiveness and work experience opportunities.
Other achievements include six sessions on drug and alcohol use, eight human rights and democracy sessions, 16 equality and diversity sessions, and more than 200 cooking activities.
However, these achievements from young people would not be possible without the hard work of our staff. The life skills team made changes to better support staff in running AQA sessions, like providing training as part of the introductory training course. There are now 85 AQAs in the catalogue so that staff can deliver one-to-one and group sessions, and there are life skills workbooks for fostering, children’s homes and care leaver services.
The Peacock Charitable Trust provide £10,000 per year to St Christopher’s, which contributes towards salaries for the life skills and participation team. Without them, all of this work would not be possible, so we want to say a huge thank you for their continued support.
Chief Executive Jonathan Whalley said: “Our young people have achieved so much in 2018 and it definitely deserves to be celebrated. Well done to everyone for these brilliant accomplishments – I cannot wait to keep creating brighter futures in 2019!”
St Christopher’s young people hosted an art exhibition on Thursday 3 January filled with their drawings, collages, videos, songs and poems. More than 40 pieces were submitted to go on display.
Young people worked alongside staff to design their pieces, set up the exhibit space, and invite their friends and family along to the show. It was a big hit, with a constant stream of people coming into the gallery throughout the evening.
Attendees were also invited to write messages about specific pieces on display, which would then be passed onto the artist for them to read and keep. This was to make sure young people knew how their art had inspired or impacted upon the audience.
This exhibition is a great example of St Christopher’s social pedagogic approach. Opportunities like this, where young people can be creative and try something new, allow them to learn about their own unique skills, talents and value.
It was also vital that young people could have their say over curating the exhibition. Co-production is integral to St Christopher’s practice; by giving young people control over things that they care about, they can learn new skills and start to recognise the positive difference they can make in their communities.
Chief Executive Jonathan Whalley said: “This show was a great way to kick off 2019 with some creativity and flair. There is such an unprecedented amount of talent within our homes and services, and looking round the exhibition made me feel so proud of all they have accomplished.”
Would you like to support our work? Find out about fundraising at St Christopher’s.
One of St Christopher’s strategic commitments for 2018-2023 is to promote lifelong learning and thriving for young people. Part of this is about creating co-produced pathways to independence using young people’s expertise, that can be tailored to an individual’s needs. We are achieving this through a number of ways, such as through our grant from the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation. Through this project, we are supporting young people in our children’s homes and foster homes to explore what their future may look like when they leave care.
But how can we expect our young people to prepare for this change if they are don’t know what their options are?
Lewis lives at one of our children’s homes. With help from his key worker, he has been thinking about preparing for independence – but as neither of them had visited a 16+ home before, they weren’t quite sure what “independence” looked like.
So a member of staff from our life skills team, a post which is funded by Esmée Fairbairn, arranged for Lewis and his key worker to visit a St Christopher’s 16+ home in another part of the country. They spent the day looking at the accommodation and speaking to staff about how things work in the home.
A few days later, Lewis and his key worker had time to reflect on the experience. Lewis said he now felt “less anxious” about moving onto independence because he had a better understanding of what it would be like. He has thought about the areas he might struggle with and told his key worker about the specific things that will help him so that they can support him in the right way. Now, he will be more prepared for moving on from his children’s home.
The next step for the transitions project is to make links in the local areas so that young people can visit other homes to learn about the practical side of independence. And because St Christopher’s offers a variety of services, there are lots more opportunities for young people to learn about their options for leaving care.
Thank you to the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation for making this work possible.
Would you like to support our transitions work? Find out how your fundraising makes a difference to children in care.
Christmas can be difficult time for young people who have left care. They may not be able to be with their family, and face being completely on their own on Christmas Day. But St Christopher’s staff go above and beyond to make sure that doesn’t happen.
Last year, 16 year old Ella had just moved into her own flat. It was scary for her to have to look after herself suddenly – paying bills, cooking all her own meals and living like an adult, even though she was still very young. Though Ella really wanted some safety and security, she didn’t have a strong relationship with her adoptive parents and didn’t feel comfortable staying with them for Christmas.
She called her children’s home to tell them that she was worried she would be on her own on Christmas Day. Without a second thought, the staff invited Ella to come and spend Christmas with them. They arranged for a taxi to pick her up and drop her back, and Ella spent a happy, cosy day at her children’s home which they’d decorated with a Santa’s Grotto theme.
You can help a child like Ella feel loved on Christmas Day. Your donation to our Christmas Appeal could help pay for a taxi or train ride home, and make sure that there’s a present waiting for them under the tree.
Today St Christopher’s Fellowship announced our Christmas Appeal 2018. No child should feel lonely at Christmas, and with your help we can make Christmas special for children in care and young care leavers.
For many of the children and young people we care for, Christmas can be a lonely time. The time of year when others are happy and spending the day with family can be very difficult for our children. And for young people who have left care or are homeless, they can find themselves on their own with no family to be with – just like Ella, who was worried about spending Christmas alone.
You can help make sure none of our children and young people feel lonely at Christmas.
As part of our strategy for the next five years, St Christopher’s has committed to lifelong learning and thriving for all the children and young people we support. One of the aims of this is to collaborate with young people to make their journeys to independence easier. By fundraising so that young people can spend Christmas where they want, with the people they feel closest to, we are making this aim become reality.
Jonathan Whalley, Chief Executive of St Christopher’s, said: “Many of us take it for granted that we can be with our families on Christmas Day, but sadly this often isn’t the case for young care leavers. So we want to make sure our young people are welcome at their children’s home and don’t have to spend Christmas alone.
“Every donation to our Christmas Appeal will make a difference, and help us to make sure our young people feel safe, happy and loved – not just at Christmas, but every day.”
How you can help
Thank you to all of St Christopher’s supporters.
St Christopher’s has co-hosted the first of two events with the Social Pedagogy Professional Association (SPPA) about how using social pedagogy in social care settings can improve the wellbeing of both the service users and the staff working there.
The event aimed to show how social pedagogic models were effective in addressing issues of low wellbeing in children and young people, adults in social care, and the workforce in the healthcare, social care and education sectors. Attendees included commissioners of children’s services, policy makers from the Department for Education and Home Office, partners we are working with through our transitions funding from the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, and St Christopher’s representatives.
St Christopher’s approach is shaped by social pedagogy’s ‘Head, Heart, Hands’ principles: the head represents the theories underpinning our practice; the heart stands for the relationships we build with children, young people, carers and partners; and the hands show how we empower young people by giving them the chance to make decisions on areas that affect their lives.
The session began with an overview of the ‘Social Pedagogy as a Resource for Government Wellbeing Policy’ paper about the overlap between the aims of government policy and the principles, values and practices of social pedagogy. Not long ago, social pedagogy was mentioned in government papers and formed a key part of their approach, but since then the term itself has been removed even if some of the key concepts remain as a recommendations.
Then there were short presentations on different topics from the following key speakers:
Running events like this supports St Christopher’s strategic commitment of improved emotional wellbeing for the children and young people we work with. By raising awareness of social pedagogy and showing commissioners and policy makers how successful it can be, we can be seen as experts in the field and promote our ways of working, with the aim of developing new services as social pedagogy becomes more known and understood.
Jonathan Whalley, Chief Executive, said: “St Christopher’s specialism in social pedagogy helps to set us apart from other providers of children’s services. Attending this seminar was a fantastic opportunity to hear more about social pedagogy from the experts, particularly in relation to wellbeing and how this differs to mental health. It was great to spread the word a little bit further.”
Supervising Social Worker-Fostering – Sandwell
Location: West Midlands
Salary: £26,575 - £35,955 Depending on Experience
Job reference: 12552
Job type: Permanent
Hours: 37.5 per week
Date Posted: Thursday August 2, 2018
Application deadline: 26/08/2018
Join a friendly team and a growing fostering service in the West Midlands where your skills will flourish, and you will be able to contribute to achieving positive results for young people.
St Christopher’s is looking for a qualified Supervising Social Worker to join our fostering team in Sandwell. You will have the opportunity to contribute to the growth and development of our Fostering Services by playing a key role in the recruitment, training and assessment of foster carers and by building positive relationships with referring authorities and other professionals. You will share our passion for creating positive futures for children and will be committed to working to the highest standards. This role is an exciting opportunity to grow your career with us.
St Christopher’s Approach
At St Christopher’s Fellowship, Social Pedagogy is our core philosophy of care, drawing together theories and concepts from related disciplines such as sociology, psychology, education, philosophy, medical sciences and social work. Our use of social pedagogy centres on attachment theory and building positive relationships with young people to bring out their inner “diamond”.
We make sure our actions reflect our values. Working in this way allows us to build trust and empower people to do their best, whatever their role.
At St Christopher’s having the right people and investing in their development is crucial. Our Training Team, alongside the Home Managers, ensure that each member of staff has a detailed development plan that matches the work they do and equips them to be knowledgeable, creative, calm, supportive and confident in whatever situation comes their way.
Applicants should have:
In return we offer:
At St Christopher’s we are committed to the safeguarding of all children and young people in our care. During the recruitment process you will be expected to complete an application form to ensure we capture essential information to meet legislation, best practice and vetting requirements.
Applicants will ideally already be on the DBS Update Service; if this is not the case St Christopher’s will carry out a DBS (police) check prior to starting.
Your application must include a supporting statement addressing the criteria given in the Person Specification.
Closing Date: 26th August
Please bear in mind that applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis.
St Christopher’s is committed to equal opportunities and welcomes applications from all sections of the community.
More information and application documents here
St Christopher’s has purchased a small, local fostering agency that will merge with the organisation’s fostering service in the West Midlands to expand our provision in the region.
The acquisition of Future Families is part of St Christopher’s commitment to growth and means we can create even more brighter futures for children and young people.
18 foster families will become part of St Christopher’s, meaning we can now look after more than 80 children and young people across our fostering services.
Foster carers play an important role in the lives of thousands of children in care. At St Christopher’s children and young people are at the heart of all we do, and because we are a charity we can focus solely on making sure all of our young people reach their full potential. Last year we provided foster homes for 119 foster children in the West Midlands, Essex, London and Peterborough.
Head of Fostering Annette Richards said: “This is a really exciting opportunity for St Christopher’s to grow our fostering offer in the West Midlands. It also means that the children and young people can stay with their existing foster families, instead of being disrupted by moving to a new home.
“We are looking forward to welcoming the new carers, children and young people to our agency and supporting them over the coming years.”
If you are interested in finding out more about fostering, visit our fostering guide now.
St Christopher’s is delighted to receive a £163,000 grant from the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation to fund a three year co-production project to prepare and support young people for their move from care to independent living.
With the funding St Christopher’s will work alongside young people from their UK residential children’s homes and foster homes to co-produce a programme of support to prepare them for leaving care.
The project aims to:
Young people in care often leave home much earlier than their peers and can have less on-going support, so this transition is really important. In practical terms this could mean sustaining their tenancies, maintaining education or employment opportunities, and feeling hopeful about the future – but we aspire to more for our care leavers. We want them to feel confident living independently, able to cope with loneliness, be resilient and draw on positive relationships and memories during tough times.
To make sure the project is what young people want, we have listened to what they said about independence. They have co-produced and delivered training to staff to tell us what matters when making this transition, so this project will incorporate their feedback from the start. St Christopher’s is committed to participation, children’s rights and supporting young people through transitions, and believe a co-produced project with young people at the helm will best suit their needs.
The project will sit alongside opportunities for young people to experience what life will be like once they leave care, such as by having overnights and weekend stays in a more independent setting. Once the programme has been developed it will be used more widely to support young people to feel prepared for their transition.
"We are hugely grateful to the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation for supporting this work. The funding will enable us to build on and share the fantastic transition support going on across St Christopher's and ensure more children and young people are properly prepared, confident and secure when they leave care. For us the project will be a success if the young people feel it makes a difference to their lives."
Geneva Ellis, Director of Corporate Services
Chief Executive of St Christopher’s Fellowship, Ron Giddens, has announced his decision to retire in 2018.
Ron began working at St Christopher’s in 2000 as a Director responsible for our services before taking over as Chief Executive in 2016.
During Ron’s time at St Christopher’s the charity has grown from a small provider of residential and housing services in London to a significantly larger, specialist and more diverse organisation working across South East England, the West Midlands and on the Isle of Man providing supported accommodation, children’s homes, fostering, education and specialist support services to children in care, leaving care and on the edge of care.
Ron said: “Over the past 18 years I have been enormously privileged to work with dedicated colleagues right across the organisation, delivering and supporting amazing services to many children, young people and their families. This dedication, expertise and passion is so evident to anyone who visits our services and talks to our staff.”
“Thank you to everyone for your support and your continued commitment in providing services we can all be proud of to the children, young people and their families that we work with.”
Chair of Trustees Hanif Barma said: “Ron has brought new energy to St Christopher’s as Chief Executive. He’s led innovative initiatives, worked with Trustees and the Senior Leadership Team to create a strong and positive culture, and improved financial stability. His experience and enthusiasm will be missed, and I will be looking for his successor to continue where Ron leaves off.”
Although retiring as CEO, Ron will continue in a part-time capacity, undertaking specific areas of work to enable a smooth transition for his successor with the support of St Christopher’s leadership team.
The recruitment process will take place over the coming months, with the aim of having a successor in post by the end of the year.
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