Regional aspirations to improve the experience of leaving care

Featured article - 10 February 2022
By Emma Smale, Practice Development Consultant, SCIE

Emma Smale, Practice Development Consultant, SCIE

Recently, the Care Review chair Josh Macalister mooted the idea of a regional care system, saying it could “address wide and concerning variation in decision making, how children and families are supported and the services they have access to”. Due to publish later this spring, it remains to be seen whether the review will recommend any regional solutions.

Back in autumn 2019, care leaving managers and commissioners from across ten local authorities in the East Midlands came together to start to explore what they could achieve for care leavers if there was greater join up as a region.

The group discussed common concerns and told similar stories about what happens to too many young people when they move into their own tenancies – the reality of living independently at only 16, 17 or 18; the need for support to help navigate practical and emotional realities, and the consequences of eviction when things go wrong. Too often, the result is more instability in a young person’s life, exposure to risks like criminal exploitation and even becoming homeless.

Young people need second and third chances colleagues said. We all need time to learn how to live independently and flexibility from those who care about us to make mistakes.

At the workshop, colleagues heard from the charity Break who presented their model of accommodation for young people leaving residential care, Staying Close, Staying Connected developed as part of the Department for Education’s Innovation Programme. Could it be something the region could adopt to tackle shared challenges?

Break co-designed the model with young people, including some employed as apprentices by the charity. They quickly discovered that staying connected to trusted and valued relationships was high on young people’s agenda when they started to live independently. They wanted to be able to make choices, and have the option to move away from the area of their former children’s homes to settle, study or work.

Regional collaboration

Colleagues in the East Midlands have come together again with the aim is to get ready to adopt Break’s model. Break and SCIE are facilitating the learning programme and supporting the ten local authorities to develop their plans.

Jane Moore, Director of Children’s Services for Leicester City Council, tells me:

When I looked at the staying close framework and it’s anticipated outcomes for care leavers, I know they mirror what we all want for our care leavers across the region. We are really aspirational as a region to develop a unique offer for our care leavers. Break will work with us to build on the brilliant work already taking place, share best practice and develop those areas whose offers are not as advanced. This is not about developing a single model but about developing a consistent staying close offer for our care leavers across the region.

Developing regional solutions is complex. But it’s impressive to see so many colleagues collaborating with a shared goal, and taking their lead from young people about what needs to change.

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