Building a community of personal advisers to support young people leaving care

Leaving home and becoming independent is hard, but for most of us this is something we don’t have to think about. Young people leaving the care system are not as lucky. Many care leavers move to live alone from their 18th birthday. The transition from children’s to adults’ services can be tough.

Young people leaving care are supported by a Personal Adviser (PA). The PA acts as their case worker. The PA will usually work from the young person from age 16 to 25.

Leaving Well is a foundation funded programme which is being developed in the Social Finance Impact Incubator. Leaving Well is working with a community of PAs and young people to develop a digital tool. This tool will improve outcomes for young people leaving care.

Leaving Well knows that PAs play a crucial role in supporting young people Leaving Care. This is why we have created a community of PAs to share their knowledge and best practice across the sector.

How did we get here?

Leaving Well was set up by Social Finance in 2014. Since then we have done research to understand the leaving care system and how it can be improved.

We carried out research into the outcomes of young people leaving care. This revealed that there is limited data collected on the outcomes of young people. Leaving Well produced an Outcomes Framework which can be used in practice to increase the insights on the outcomes of young people.

We then researched how leaving care works in practice. We partnered with Leeds City Council, the London Borough of Havering, and Southampton City Council. We found three key findings:

  1. PAs want to spend more time with young people. There are a large amount of admin requirements that currently take up PAs time.
  2. Young people want to have more of a voice over their transition to independence.
  3. Managers want to be able to better identify areas for service improvement

From this research we identified the potential for a digital tool to:

  • Give young people more of a voice in their transition to independence
  • Facilitate communication between the young person and their PA
  • Free up PA time from admin tasks, so that they can spend more time with young people.
  • Provide up to date management information on the outcomes of young people, using the Outcomes Framework.

Working with a PA community to develop a digital tool

In order for the digital tool to be a success, it must meet the needs of users. Since summer 2017 we have worked closely with PAs and young people to develop every feature in the tool. We are using an Agile approach to development. This means that we are developing the tool in small steps and getting feedback along the way. Every feature has been tested with users before it has been developed. We have spent lots of time with PAs which has helped us to learn a huge amount.

We worked with PAs to understand their needs. One of the most common things that PAs told us was that they have limited resources to support young people. One of the reasons for this is because they have to navigate complex admin systems. This does not help them to work efficiently with their high caseloads.

At the same time, we learned that PAs have developed their own innovative ways to support their work. Each PA has developed their own ‘work around’ for difficult jobs. These ranged from more high-tech to low-tech solutions:

Pathway planning

  • “I take paper copies to meetings so I can go through each question with the young person”
  • “I always take the old plan so we remember where we were at”

Finance

  • “Every young person has a prepaid card which we can easily top up when needed”
  • “I have a ‘Setting-up Home Allowance Spreadsheet’ where I keep track of how much each young person has spent”

Remembering information

  • “I type up notes into my phone when I get back into the car after a visit. I then email them to myself so that I don’t forget them”
  • “I email any request a young person has to myself, so I don’t forget it”
  • “I have an Excel sheet which summarises all the key information for a case, such as bank details, GP details and passport details”

Spending time with young people

  • “I always book the next visit at the end of the current visit, so we get it booked in”
  • “I see my care leaver more than the statutory requirement (which is every 8 weeks). This means I can keep up to date and less can go wrong”
  • “I use WhatsApp to keep in touch with my young people”
  • “Social groups are great support for young people”

Time management

  • “I have my work emails on my phone so I can respond to things quickly when I am out and about”
  • “I have lots of to-do lists”
  • “I have a ‘Date-of-last-visit’ Excel spreadsheet”
  • “I have a Gantt chart with all of my young people in it”

Working with other services

  • “We have built up resources inother agencies as a team, so we know who can help and what they can do”
  • “We now have access to the NRPF connect system, so we know the status of our young people’s asylum claims”

Other useful tools

  • “I use Mile IQ, an app to track my car mileage which makes doing expenses much quicker”
  • “I have a good handy man I can rely on to help when my young people have a problem!”

Our first PA meetup

PAs have created a lot of useful work-arounds, but they do not always get the chance to share these with each other. PAs from different local authorities do not have the chance to meet others. To enable this to happen we have created a community of PAs. By supporting this community, we aim to improve outcomes together and make a change.

We held our first PA meetup at the beginning of the summer. We brought together PAs from Leeds, Southampton, and Havering. The aim was to share approaches to working with young people and discuss ways in which this could be improved.

PAs told us that the day was useful:

  • “I got the chance to share different ways of working and have the chance to discuss these”
  • “I learned different hacks from other PAs”
  • “I could see that we were influencing development of the digital tool”

The world PAs want to see

During the session we asked PAs to draw out their ideal interaction with a young person. This would help us to develop something that supports this type of work.

PAs had similar ideas. They drew interactions that:

  • Showed them spending more time with young people. They wanted to solve problems and provide bespoke support.
  • Used simple and efficient admin processes that supported their relationships with young people.
  • Involved working together with young people to help them to get tasks done.

Here are a few examples:

Getting things done over coffee
Ticking off tasks together

What next?

Leaving Well is starting to work with three more local authorities so that our digital tool can be used by more PAs and young people. This will enable us to gain a broader understanding of the care system, and the needs of PAs and young people. We want to bring more PAs together, to continue to share and learn. We will create a space for young people to do the same.

If you would like to find out more about our work or become a part of our PA community, then contact Hannah at hannah.jump@socialfinance.org.uk