Young man waving goodbye

“Leave me yet never say goodbye”

Social care does not operate in a vacuum but is a vital component of our wider society to which we must always have regard. Entering care can be overwhelming and frightening and it is up to care workers and the care sector as a whole to make sure that the integration process for these individuals goes as smoothly and comfortably as possible. The same can be said for people leaving care, especially for young care leavers.

For care-experienced young people, once they reach the age of 24, they are left on their own to sort out the basics of everyday life including navigating the housing market, applying for a driver’s license, passport renewal and other tasks that fall on every person who lives independently. That experience can be daunting and goes some way to explain the massively negative impact faced by care leavers on their long-term life chances.

The quote from Faraaz Kazi in the title of this piece sums up for me why we must ensure that we provide young care leavers with the tools, guidance and opportunities they need to live an independent life. Our goal must be to provide care-experienced young people with the opportunity to thrive, recognising that their care experience will always remain with them for rest of their lives.

CareTech Foundation has partnered with Barnardo’s to create the Journey app to help make the process of leaving care a bit easier for both care leavers and their caregivers. Journey will feature content on:
● information and advice on living independently such as what to wear for work, how to cook for themselves and what support they are entitled to;
● access to tools to complete tasks as an adult, including collecting benefits, applying for a council house and keeping receipts; and,
● the ability to check in quickly and conveniently with support workers rather than making phone calls or having face-to-face meetings

The app aims to streamline processes, support services and essential administrative tasks that are too often disjointed and unorganised, leading to frustration and lack of trust in these systems by young care leavers. Providing organised guidance on the basics on independent living is an essential first step in setting care leavers up for success.

Addressing the disadvantages care leavers face regarding education and employment opportunities are other key factors we need to consider. Many care leavers don’t know where to begin in terms of choosing universities and courses, are uncertain about financial support, and experience academic challenges due to gaps in understanding from disrupted schooling.

As a result, only 12% of care leavers enter higher education by the age of 23. Other sources suggest this figure is even lower, at 6%. Additionally, one third of those who do attend University are likely to withdraw from their studies while 51% consider dropping out due to workload, health, money or personal/family issues.

The CareTech Foundation has entered partnerships with educational institutions and career development organisations to support programmes that help address these issues and create models for others in the care sector to hopefully follow.

Working with the University of East London and other universities, we are launching a new Care Leavers Bursary Grant to encourage care leavers enrolled in these universities on a health and social care-related course to continue with their studies. Each year, our grant of £5000 will provide five care leavers enrolled in UEL with a £1000 bursary. For those care leavers with disabilities (physical and/or mental), we will commit a further £250 per year to support them. For all grant recipients, when they graduate we will provide an additional £250 to incentivise retention and reward the hard work of the individual.

The financial element of this exciting new programme is just the start of our support for the recipients. Connecting education to eventual employment is an aspect that must be embraced in any support programme. As part of our support package, the CareTech Foundation has negotiated guaranteed work experience in local CareTech plc sites for the recipients of the bursary.

Additionally, to address the 40% of care leavers aged 19-21 not in education, employment or training (NEET), the CareTech Foundation has partnered with the EY Foundation in their Beyond your Limits’ programme that aims to double the rate of care-experienced young people successfully moving into employment, education or training.

Targeting 16-17 year olds in care who are in full- or part-time education, the programme delivers a range of ‘guaranteed interventions’, including paid work experience and employability training amounting to 21 days of paid support and training. Each participant is supported with a business mentor and a ‘progression coach’ from EY Foundation who conducts a strength and needs analysis and, where needed, refers or delivers ‘bespoke interventions’, such as conflict management or effective use of a career bursary.

Programmes and resources like the ones I have mentioned above provide these young people the opportunities to build up their CVs, get real work experience and utilise their own intelligence and decision-making skills in real world environments.

We don’t just want to help care leavers in the short term – we want to be able to provide sustainable solutions that help them recognise their potential, building the confidence and a skill set needed not to just live, but to thrive independently.

To deliberately misquote another Faraaz Kazi line, some people are going to leave, but that’s not the end of their story; that’s the end of your part in their story.