We are very excited to launch the E-Spire Team in our North East region. The E-Spire Team is a specialist team launched with the aim of giving young people leaving care the same start in adult life as other teenagers. The team was officially launched during National Care Leavers week at a TEAM Fostering arts and crafts day where our children and young people produced a piece of art which they felt represented what the team meant to them.
Most young people in foster care are forced to leave their foster home when they turn 18 under current national legislation which cuts state funding to carers and places councils under pressure to free up spaces for younger children.
Recent Government figures show that more than one third of 19-year-olds who recently left care in the UK are not in work or training with disproportionate numbers of teenage youngsters leaving foster homes sucked into criminal activity and unemployment.
We are hoping to tackle this issue in the North East by launching the E-Spire team to work with children soon to leave care and their foster families.
It will offer practical support and advice to young people about job opportunities, budgeting, cooking for themselves, driving lessons, further education, housing and benefits as well as offering access to Team Fostering grants, set up to help those leaving care with deposits for a flat and furnishings.
Walter Young, Director at Team Fostering, said: “It’s not enough just to find a caring family for young people, we need to think about what we are doing to help them with the rest of their life.
“The E-Spire team is there to help give these young people the best possible start to their adult lives which is good news not just for them, but for the whole of society.”
Foster carers can choose to allow a young person turned 18 to continue living with them, but practical and financial support from local authorities ends in most cases. Carers then have to fund the young person’s care from their own finances, which for many foster parents is not possible as they don't have the money to do so.
The problem is so far-reaching that chief executives of 40 of Britain’s leading children’s charities have called on Parliament to amend the Children and Families Bill to allow all foster children to remain with their families until they are 21.
Children’s charities claim it is an ‘own goal’ for the state not to fund the estimated £2.6m needed annually to ensure a longer stay with foster parents, given the evidence that children are more successful in later life the longer they stay with foster parents and the problems many face if they don’t.
The E-Spire team is a vital new addition to the wide range of support we offer. It will extend the reach of our services beyond traditional boundaries and into the adult lives of children previously in care.
The E-Spire team will operate across Northumberland, Tyne and Wear, County Durham and Teesside. E-Spire stands for Education, Support, Participation, Inspiration, Recognition, Engagement.
“Research which looked at young people in the care system shows that the outcomes for many have been very poor with children leaving foster care over-represented in terms of unemployment, the prison population, homelessness and mental health problems,” said Mr Young.
“Children often enter the care system as a result of the breakdown of their birth family. Some will have experienced physical, sexual, or emotional abuse, or neglect and for this reason, care leavers often lack the emotional and practical support from families that other young people can rely on.
“The E-Spire team will seek to rectify this by working intensively with young people one-to-one, for example to help with their application for college or university.
“Putting Children’s Futures First” is a key commitment of Team Fostering, and the E Spire Team will be making a real difference to supporting young people to be valued contributors to society.”
While many independent fostering agencies are having to cut back on financial support for carers and children, our not-for-profit business model means we can continue to fund their support services to better prepare young people when they leave foster care.
At a time when young people in general are staying at home longer – with the UK average for a young person to leave home now 24-year-old – children in foster care are forced to leave home at 18, or sooner in some cases.
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