Getting to where they want to be — supporting young people leaving care

By Hannah Jump

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. The transition from children’s to adults’ services can be tough. This week is Care Leavers Week. The theme is ‘Reach for the Sky’. We asked some personal advisers and young people how they could be supported to do this.

What happens when young people leave care?

Leaving Care teams are committed to supporting young people. But young people do not always get the support they need to reach their goals and aspirations. For those who do, their successes are not always celebrated.

Leaving Well was set up by Social Finance in 2014. Since then we have researched the leaving care system to understand how it can be improved. We spent a lot of time in Leeds City Council, Southampton City Council, and the London Borough of Havering to understand how leaving care works and found the following:

  • PAs want to spend more time with young people. There are a large amount of admin requirements that currently take up PAs time.
  • Young people want to have more of a voice over their transition to independence.
  • Young people do not always feel like they are supported to reach their goals and aspirations
  • Managers don’t always know where services can be improved because they have limited data on what is going on.

Planning for the future

Every young person Leaving Care must have a pathway plan which should be updated every 6 months. The young person’s personal adviser (PA) is responsible for managing this. The PA should ensure that the needs in the pathway plan are met and the plan is up to date.

We learned that the pathway plan is not always as useful as it should be:

  • Analysis showed that only 5% of PA time is spent on the pathway plan.
  • Young people reported that they don’t feel like they have much ownership over their plan. Only 16% of the pathway plans analysed by Leaving Well recorded that the young person had a copy of their plan.
  • Young people told us that action-focused pathway planning would be useful. Currently 70% of the text in the plans reviewed was a description of past events.

Due to difficult experiences in care and leaving care, young people may be find it hard to access education or employment. The support they receive is not always enough:

  • Half of leaving care teams felt there were no learning opportunities for their young people.
  • Employability professionals are not always on hand to support young people

How can we support young people to reach their goals?

We asked PAs and young people how they could be better supported to reach their aspirations.

Brett works for Barnet Council. He has care experience.

Do you think young people are supported to reach their aspirations?

“As council budgets are quite tight a lot of people are missing out on opportunities that children and young people who live at home may get. A lot may struggle to access college courses post 19. This is because courses sometimes cost up to £2000 and the local authority are not always able to pay. This means that young people are not reaching their potential.”

How do you think we can better support young people to do this?

In Barnet we have a charity called Live Unlimited. The charity works to inspire and support the hopes and dreams of Barnet’s Care Leavers http://www.liveunlimited.org.uk/.

Dan is a personal adviser at the London Borough of Havering.

How can we support young people to meet their aspirations?

“One of the crucial things we can do to support young people with their aspirations is to give them time. Many have faced obstacles that have held them back from getting to the place they want to be. They will need time to get there at a pace that works for them, not one that someone has set for them. It is important we spend time together and encourage them. We must celebrate their successes, no matter how small, as they continue on their journeys”

Kathy is a personal adviser for Leeds City Council

Do you think enough support is available for young people?

A lot of support is available for young people to achieve their goals and aspirations. However, not everyone is in a space where they are able to access this support effectively. It comes down to supporting young people to live independently. Teaching independence skills from an early age, as any parent may do, may alleviate some of the anxiety of independent living. This may give space to think about goals and aspirations in a more timely manner. In my experience by the time young people are ready to leave care they have so much occupying their minds that their thoughts about goals and aspiration drop. They suddenly have to do 101 things and they can’t think about their goals! They become entangled in the anxiety of failure.

So how can we improve things for young people?

Not all young people can or wish to stay in foster care post 18 so they need a midway care package. They need to be able to live safely with support and company of other people so that they can achieve independence with the correct level of support. In the current climate we can best support young people by ensuring that they are aware of the support available to them and how to access it. Young people are best placed to let us know how we can best support them. They need to be encouraged to take the lead on planning for their future. We should help them to take control of their own destiny.

How are Leaving Well approaching the problem?

A common theme from our interviews was that young people need to be supported to reach their own goals. This should happen at a pace that meets their own needs. Leaving Well have developed a digital tool which aims to give young people more ownership over the support that they receive. We worked with PAs young people to develop every feature in the tool. The tool:

  1. Gives young people a platform to express their voice and ambitions
  2. Enables personal advisers to spend more time with young people. The tool makes admin tasks quicker and easier to complete.
  3. Provides managers with information on their services. This can be used to identify areas which should be improved.

This tool is just part of the solution. By working together across the sector can we provide support for every young person. Only then will they be able to reach their own goals.

If you are interested in finding out more about Leaving Well email Hannah at contact.leavingwell.org.uk or visit www.leavingwell.org.uk