North Yorkshire pushes ahead with opportunities for care leavers

Dozens of care leavers in North Yorkshire, as well as the people who support them, gathered this week for the first ever leavers conference for the county.

Shannon Downing with Stuart Carlton and Vicky Metheringham

North Yorkshire is recognised as a beacon of good practice across the UK for its work with children in care and leaving care and  this summer was rated ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted for the support it gives in creating opportunities and helping young people to realise their potential.

Nearly 80 care leavers and young people in care with North Yorkshire County Council attended a conference yesterday at the University of York, along with frontline staff and businesses and organisations that support them, to celebrate achievement, look at the barriers they face and to share ideas and experiences.

The event took place during National Care Leavers Week which runs until October 31st.  It has also coincided with the Government’s launch today of a Care Leavers Covenant  which sets out a partnership with business to create 10,000 work opportunities over the next ten years with companies such as   Amazon, Rolls-Royce and Barclays helping these young people gain vital skills and experiences as they enter the jobs market.

“Giving the young people in our care the best start for their adult lives and having the highest aspirations for them is a key priority for North Yorkshire and we are ahead of the game in this,” said County Councillor Janet Sanderson, North Yorkshire’s Executive Member for the Children and Young People’s Service. “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.

“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.”

Ofsted praised North Yorkshire for its “highly effective” work with care leavers. 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’s practice of employing psychologists in its children and young people’s services was flagged by the British Psychological Society this week as ground-breaking partnership work with Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust.

The initiative has 14 clinicians embedded in the county council’s teams from early help to residential settings and leaving care. Clinical psychologists provide consultation and formulation to support frontline staff and can also work directly with the children, young people and their families and carers.

The service is deliberately designed to be as flexible as possible depending on the needs of the children and young people, seeing them wherever they feel most comfortable, for example at home, school or college.

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.

“Our aim is to be as flexible as we can be to set priorities and meet needs for care leavers,” said Cllr Sanderson.  “We use all the skills in our teams to help young people and to meet their priorities whenever possible.”

Case studies:

Shannon Downing is a North Yorkshire care leaver who is now studying for a Business Management Degree at the University of York.  She has received support from the leaving care team for over 6 years.

Shannon first moved to live semi-independently at the age of 16. Despite the barriers Shannon faced, living independently at such a young age, she worked hard and was able to qualify as a dental nurse aged 18.

She was employed at a local dental practice for over 4 years but unfortunately was given notice of redundancy last February, aged 21. Shannon sought the support of her leaving care team who helped her find alternative work at another dental practice.

The team also helped Shannon to turn this difficult and unsettling experience into a great opportunity and to fulfil her potential to attend university, something Shannon has always wanted to do.

Shannon decided to apply to the University of York last May and Shannon’s leaving care worker and opportunity broker worked with her to get everything in place for a September start.

“I could not have asked for better support,” said Shannon. “It has come at the right time and it has helped me achieve my goal.”

There were multiple practical and financial barriers for Shannon to overcome but the leaving care team members were able to be flexible with their time and the financial support provided. “We are really proud of Shannon and the determination and commitment she has shown to make this happen,” said Cllr Sanderson. “We are also proud of the team which has supported her so well.  We want the very best for the young people in our care and will leave no stone unturned in our efforts to support them in their chosen paths.”  

Trip to The Ritz

North Yorkshire recently organised a trip to the Ritz for two young people in care with an interest in cooking and business so they could spend a day shadowing the hotel and kitchen staff.

One of the young people is currently in a supported lodgings placement working towards independence.  He is studying business at a local post-16 college and working part-time in the catering industry making pizzas.  The other has recently completed GCSEs and has a passion for creative performance and cooking  

They were shown around the kitchens by one of the sous-chefs and taken by other staff for a tour of the dining areas.  They were impressed by the “phenomenal attention to detail”.  At the end of the day they were told they would be welcome to make a return visit.  “This was a fantastic opportunity and invaluable experience for these two young people to see the Ritz behind the scenes and the meticulous planning and hard work that goes into such a successful business,” said Cllr Sanderson.

This story was published 26 October 2018