North Yorkshire has been selected to join an innovative national project which will employ care leavers as consultants to improve services.
The County Council has been chosen as one of eight authorities nationally to be part of a New Belongings project with the charity Coram Voice.
The project will involve working closely with young adults who have recently left care - supported by a North Yorkshire County Council programme manager and participation lead - and will identify priorities in developing services which meet the needs of local care leavers.
The New Belongings project was initially set up between 2013 and 2016 with funding from the Department for Education and creates and tests different practices to improve services and outcomes for care leavers. Some of those initiatives have gone on to influence national policy, including extending the support they receive from personal advisers to the age of 25. Under the previous legal framework, all care leavers were entitled to receive support from a Personal Adviser (PA) until they reached age 21.
Now a new phase of the programme is being launched, which will involve working with local authorities to develop their leaving care services with direct involvement from their care leavers.
Coram Voice will work on the project in partnership with North Yorkshire, alongside Coventry, Dorset, Hertfordshire, North Tyneside, Oldham, Stockport and Wandsworth councils over the next three years.
The project will build on ground-breaking work already carried out by North Yorkshire County Council, which last year was the first and only authority to be rated “outstanding” in every category for frontline Children and Young People’s Services. The inspection praised its “highly effective work” in ensuring care leavers were helped to realise their potential and access opportunities.
The council supports about 350 care leavers every year. They are each awarded a Leaving Care Case Worker and are supported by colleagues with a number of different specialisms, including Opportunity Brokers, who ensure care leavers are supported to achieve educational and employment opportunities.
North Yorkshire was also one of the first pilot authorities to introduce the Staying Put scheme in 2008, which enables young people in care to remain with foster families at a critical time in their lives until the age of 21 and to be supported by the leaving care team through education and training until aged 25.
North Yorkshire’s existing work has resulted in almost 65 per cent of its care leavers remaining in education, training and employment, in a variety of different environments, from apprenticeships to further education and full-time employment.
They include one care leaver who went on to study a Business Management degree at the University of York with a view to setting up her own business and another whose many achievements include obtaining a scholarship from the Chinese Government to study for a Masters degree in World Economics and Chinese Development in Beijing, after graduating university in the UK and learning Mandarin.
The Coram project will involve measuring the wellbeing of young care leavers using the Your Life Beyond Care survey, which was developed by existing young care leavers as part of Coram Voice’s Bright Spots programme. North Yorkshire County Council will run the survey with the young people and carry out a self-assessment of their services to help them identify priorities for action.
Each participating local authority will have a care leavers’ forum and the New Belongings team will run workshops with them and local authority staff to develop the programme. Local authorities will also have the opportunity to come together through peer learning seminars to share practice and lessons learned.
In addition, the programme will employ eight care-experienced young people as consultants to enable the engagement of local care leavers.
Cllr Janet Sanderson, executive member for Children and Young People’s Services at North Yorkshire County Council said: “We are delighted to be working with Coram Voice in this project, which will ensure everyone leaving care in North Yorkshire has the right support at the right time as they journey towards independent adult life.
“It builds on the ground-breaking work we have already received national plaudits for, in improving support and wellbeing for young people both in care and leaving care. This project will also ensure their needs and perspectives at the very heart of decision-making.”
Linda Briheim-Crookall, Head of Policy and Practice Development at Coram Voice said: “The New Belongings programme gives us the opportunity to build on our existing Bright Spots programme and work more intensively with local authorities and their care leavers to develop services based on what care leavers themselves say is important.
“We are very excited to have care-experienced young people working with us to make sure this work is co-produced with the young people whose lives leaving care services are there to improve.”