BARNARDO’S has signed up to the new Care Leaver Covenant launched to highlight its commitment to creating more opportunities for young people leaving the care system.
By signing the Covenant, Barnardo’s promises to offer activities such as volunteering and work experience, including providing opportunities across our network of more than 700 high street shops.
In 2017-18, Barnardo’s supported 3,200 young people leaving the care system. This included access to appropriate accommodation, specialist mental health & wellbeing services, and help with employment training and skills. The UK’s oldest and largest children’s charity has been helping young people who couldn’t live with their birth families for 152 years, and this work remains a key priority under its ambitious 10-year strategy.
Young people leaving care are likely to have experienced early trauma, neglect or abuse. In England, the latest figures show they are far less likely to achieve positive outcomes than those who have not been in care. 40% of care leavers aged 19-21 are not in education, employment or training (EET)*, compared to just 13% of all young people of the same age.
The Covenant, unveiled by Children and Families Minister Nadhim Zahawi MP, is a promise made by private, public and voluntary organisations to help care leavers aged 16-25 to transition successfully into adulthood. It will act as a ‘kite mark’ for organisations wanting to promote their offer to this group of young people.
Barnardo’s Chief Executive, Javed Khan, said:
“Sadly young people leaving care often struggle to gain good qualifications and get their foot on the career ladder.
“That’s why Barnardo’s is committed to offering high-quality work placements as well as specialist advice and support.
“We believe that all young people deserve the opportunity to follow their dreams. That’s why our ambition is for care leavers to have the same life chances as other young people, including access to employment, education and training.”
More than 40,000 children leave the care system each year. Most were taken into care as a result of abuse or neglect. When they reach adulthood, many care leavers are poorly prepared for independence, lacking the financial skills, emotional confidence or family network to form the self-reliance needed to make their way in life.
Some care leavers also face additional challenges. In 2017-18, 26% of care leavers supported by Barnardo’s reported having a disability. Also, 26% of female care leavers and 11 per cent of male care leavers that we helped were young parents.
Sarah Chapman was about to buy her first home and advertise for a lodger when she heard about the Barnardo’s Supported Lodgings service.
The 32-year-old, from Leamington Spa, decided instead to offer one of her bedrooms to a vulnerable young person so that she could help them with the transition into adulthood.
She is currently enjoying her first placement, supporting a teenaged girl, and says the experience has “opened her eyes” to new experiences and enabled her to make a “massive impact” on a young person’s life.
Sarah, a solicitor, said: “I’d previously been interested in fostering, but that was more of a long-term plan, so this seemed like a good stepping stone.
“It was quite fortuitous as I was about to buy my first home. It had three bedrooms so I’d always intended to have someone live with me, but I initially expected to advertise for a lodger.
“However, providing a room for a vulnerable young person has been a much better use of the space.”
Following an induction and training process, as well as background checks, Sarah was approved as a host.
As part of the matching process, Barnardo’s brought carefully-selected potential lodgers to Sarah’s house so that they could see where they might live and if they might get along.
She was reassured that Barnardo’s staff and social workers would always be available to lend support if needed.
Sarah said: “The first girl was quite shy and anxious and was unsure if my home was in the right location for her, so we didn’t proceed any further.
“But I clicked with the second girl I met. We were very comfortable in each other’s company, and the conversation flowed easily, so we all agreed that she could move in.”
Sarah added: “She’s settled in well and is excellent company. She wants to live independently when she reaches her 18th birthday but in the meantime, she’s got a safety net in place, and it’s nice that I’m not living on my own.
“She is welcome to invite her friends around, which means the house is livelier and it feels more like a home.
“She’s also opened my eyes to different things in terms of music, TV shows and places to go, which I’ve really enjoyed, and in return I’ve helped with her life-skills – we go shopping in the supermarket and I’ve helped her with budgeting and filling in forms for her driving licence and passport.
“If she has a problem we’ll work together to find a solution.”
Sarah concluded: “Supported lodgings provide the opportunity to make a massive impact on a young person’s life, offering stability and security which they might otherwise not have.
“It’s gratifying and worthwhile.”
Chloe says she’s been on a “massive journey” since her early teenage years which were spent in more than 30 different foster homes, leaving her with little sense of self-worth and lacking any hope for the future.
It was only when she moved in with supported lodgings provider Sarah Chapman that she finally felt safe and secure and her life started to change for the better.
The placement was meant to last until Chloe reached the age of 18 this year, but they got on so well together that she still lives there today.
Chloe said: “I could be a horrible and nasty person when I was younger. I didn’t want to be at home.
“I first went into foster care at the age of 13 years old and ended up with more than 30 placements in three years. I often ran away and spent a lot of time in police stations waiting to be picked up again.
“I was being dropped off at one home and then taken away and dropped off at another house. It just felt as if nobody was bothered about me.
“None of the foster places ever felt like home. Some of the people were really nice, but they had their own families, and I was the one on my own. I was the outsider.”
Chloe feared she would end up in a hostel, but her social worker suggested trying supported lodgings instead, where people offer a spare room to a vulnerable young person and help them on the path to independent living.
So at the age of 17, she moved in with Sarah Chapman, a solicitor who had just bought her own house and recognised she had the time and the space to help.
Chloe said: “I’d never heard of Barnardo’s. I had low expectations as I’d got my hopes up too many times before. I’d learnt the hard way not to get too attached as I’d been taken around so many places.
“But this was different. In previous placements, I’d just been given a room and had to accept it. There was never an opportunity to add anything of my own. But Sarah let me put up posters, pictures and mirrors, and we went out shopping together to get lamps, shelves and duvets.
“For the first time, I started to feel pretty good about myself. I was able to add a little piece of ‘me’ to where I was staying, making it feel like a proper home.”
Sarah encouraged Chloe to set up her savings accounts and has helped her learn how to manage her money.
She also encouraged Chloe to try healthier cooking and supported her when she started applying for her property. Chloe had always wanted her place to live – but she realised things had changed and she was happy living with Sarah for the time being.
Chloe said: “The desire to move out had faded away. It’s Sarah’s home, but now it feels like my home too.
“I always tell her where I’m going and what I’m doing, but it’s not like she’s pretending to be my mum.
“We’ve grown very close, and we have very long talks about all sorts of things, from mundane stuff to relationships. I know that I can talk to her about anything.”
Today Chloe has a full-time job in the hospitality industry and hopes to progress to a management position before perhaps setting up her own business.
It’s a complete turnaround from how she felt just a few years earlier.
She said: “When I tell people about my previous life you can see their jaw drop. I thought I would end up as a drug addict and I just accepted it. That was all I thought my life would amount to.
“It’s been a massive journey, and I’ve grown up so much over the last year.
“Now I’m a positive role model for some of my friends. I help them to think about how they should behave, and I try to make them aware of their actions.
“I’m finally happy, and I’ve got positive plans for the future. Thanks to Sarah, I know I’ll get there.”