Last year, when one of our Participation and Support Leads spoke to us about the need for a programme to teach the young people in our care the life skills they needed to live independently, we thought, “What a great idea!”.
As a result of the upheaval that many of the young people in our care experience before they are placed with us, many miss some of the life skills they need to live independently. So, it made sense to design a bespoke and adaptable Independent Living Project which catered for gaps in their knowledge.
It’s a worrying statistic that, when compared with non-care experienced young people, a far higher proportion of care leavers find themselves outside of training and employment. A 2017 report by The Prince’s Trust included interviews with care leavers which identified the skills they felt they lacked in preparing for living independently. The skills they identified were nearly identical to the ones our team had suggested that we include in our new programme. They included managing finances and housing, awareness of services, maintaining positive health and wellbeing, and career planning. Those interviewed also listed skills in managing relationships and confidence as important in the transition from young person in care to independent adult.
The Affinity Fostering Independent Living Project has worked with numerous soon to be care leavers over the last twelve months and works towards the goals of providing confidence and knowledge to successfully find employment or education and qualification, build healthy and positive relationships, maintain health and wellbeing, and manage finances and housing.
Every young person that comes into our care is different so, as a result, each programme is tailored specifically to their needs. Some may be excellent at budgeting, but may have no idea how to cook, alternatively their life experience may mean that they can create healthy meals, but don’t know how to access useful health services. With this in mind, our team have created a booklet, which is designed as a conversation starter, and is regularly reviewed and edited to ensure that it is up to date and fits the purpose. Working one-to-one with their support worker, our young people can then identify what they are confident in and what they need help with. If we identify something that isn’t contained in the project, we pull it in, ensuring that every individual learning need is met.
In enabling practical one-to-one support, we believe that we are able to enhance and add to the nurturing experience that the young people in our care already receive from their foster carers. The opportunity to open up to a professional support worker also provides the confidence to work with other outside agencies later in life, making it easier for care leavers to access the support and services available to them.
We have received really positive feedback from both the young people who have taken part in the programme as well as the staff that are helping to deliver it.
"C" said "I really like working with Becca and i have learnt so many new things about independent skills. I have ordered a debit card and understand how to use it while making sure I budget my money. I have also been able to write my CV with Becca, which was extremely helpful."
P said "I found it extremely useful, and I am now booking my own appointments. I am turning 18 next year and have to start making decisions for myself, which I found the independent living programme very helpful for. I understand a little bit more about cooking and budget buying. Even though I already had a bank account and understood about loans and overdrafts, I still found it beneficial going through it all."
R said "The independence programme was so helpful to do with Bethan. It was so helpful when she explained stuff to me in more detail. My favourite part was definitely the cooking practical when you had to cook something for just £5. I was up for the challenge and I made cottage pie. It also really helped me understand money."
Bethan said "I've really enjoyed working through this with our young people. I think this is a great piece of work and I wish I had something like this when I was a young person. it covers all the basic's and allows for young people to engage in conversations around these subjects."
Vicky said "I have really enjoyed creating this project to deliver to our young people. My vision was to give YP a head start in building on their independence skills to help them manage when they leave the care system.
I believe these skills will build on their confidence and ability to be resilient in managing in the adult world."
Affinity’s Independent Living Project is a prime example of how our agency goes above and beyond to ensure that the young people in our care have the best possible route into adulthood. By focussing on their next steps, we help them to go to Affinity and beyond!