Dozens of care leavers in North Yorkshire, as well as the people who support them, have gathered together at the University of York to celebrate their achievements and learn about opportunities.
North Yorkshire is recognised as a beacon of good practice across the UK for its work with children in care and leaving care and is rated as ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted for the support it gives in helping young people to realise their potential.
North Yorkshire County Council organised the conference which was supported by the University of York’s Widening Participation team. It was also attended by frontline staff and businesses and organisations that support care leavers, to celebrate achievement, look at the barriers they face and to share ideas and experiences.
The event took place ahead of Care Leavers’ Week which runs this week (Oct 28-Nov 3).
“As corporate parents we are very proud of what our young people achieve and of the front-line teams who work so hard to put the support and networks in place to give them the best chances in life”, said County Councillor Janet Sanderson, North Yorkshire’s Executive Member for the Children and Young People’s Service.
“Our ethos is that we don’t want our young care leavers to be facing major milestones on their own – like turning up to halls of residence for the first time – unless they want to. They know the support is there when they need it. We have very committed teams. We want the young people in our care to achieve the best they can and that means giving them the right support at the right time. It is a key priority for us.”
One of the speakers at the conference wasJonny Hoyle, a social worker and assistant team manager in North Yorkshire’s Leaving Care service. Jonny was in care in North Yorkshire himself, along with his brother Chris, a graduate of the University of York who is now employed by the university as a management information analyst for Widening Participation. The two brothers played a key part in organising the conference.
Jonny said: “I was delighted to spend the day with our young people, celebrating their achievements both large and small.
“The day also celebrated those colleagues, teachers, businesses and employers who go the extra mile to give our young people opportunities to succeed like Chris and I were given.”
Chris Hoyle said: “This innovative conference has allowed us to show this group of young people that university is an option available to them and that if they would like to study, York is a welcoming and inclusive place for them to do that. We are not an ivory tower but long committed to equality and diversity and we hope that by bringing this group of brilliant young people to campus we will allow them to see that.”
North Yorkshire has almost 65% of its care leavers in education, training and employment, in a variety of different environments, from apprenticeships to further education and full-time employment.
All young people in care who attend university get a package of financial support from the County Council amounting to £9,000 over three years; over four times the amount offered in many other authorities.
This financial support, despite the fact the council has made huge savings, (one third of its budget by 2020) is a sign of North Yorkshire’s commitment to support young people in care into higher education.
Young people leaving the care of the county council have an allocated leaving care case worker who works with them directly, coordinates any additional support they may need and helps them to manage any risks they may face.
Recently, the council has added more specialist roles within the team, such as speech and language therapists, clinical psychologists, who act as life coaches, and opportunity brokers, who work with young people to make positive things happen and liaise with business and other organisations to set up work experience and other opportunities.
The council is also ahead of the game in its use of family group conferencing and lifelong links for care leavers, identifying wider support networks through the extended family and other significant adults to help young people on their journey into adulthood.