Sailing off to new horizons

Published 23 Oct 2023

You may remember that in June, we took a group of our children and young people for a residential trip with UKSA (UK Sailing Academy) based in the Isle of Wight. UKSA is a maritime youth charity and training centre of excellence that supports children and young people to access activities and training for careers at sea.

You can imagine how excited we were to be able to offer our young people the opportunity of a lifetime, the chance to spend a few days on the Isle of Wight with this world-renowned organisation. And it truly was an experience that the young people loved and raved about afterwards. One young person in particular returned from the trip inspired and with his eyes firmly on a future at sea.

James* is 16 years old and at a stage of his life where the attention of his foster carers and the professionals around him are focussing on what his adult life might look like. This is a daunting time for every young person, but more so for our young people who might have had their education disrupted and who may not be suited to walk the conventional career paths.

“I’ve known James for a long time,” says Vicky who heads up the Affinity Participation Team. ”But on the trip I felt that I saw something new in him, a fire had been lit and it was wonderful to see.”

The Participation Team always seeks feedback from the children and young people at the end of every event or trip. James’s feedback showed that he had been deeply inspired by what he’d learnt and Affinity recognised the potential this had to positively influence his life.

“To hear James speak of how he had so enjoyed the trip and how he was inspired to become a Water sports Instructor filled the team at Affinity with such a sense of possibility,” says Andy Robins, Director of Affinity Fostering. “This was an opportunity to do all that we stand for as an agency: to enhance and empower young lives, to make a positive difference in the lives of children and to go to every length to secure the best outcomes for the children and young people we care for. We knew we had to get involved.”

We love it when a plan comes together!

Affinity Fostering got on the case and contacted the team at UKSA. We wanted to know if there was anything we could do to make James’s aspirations become a reality. They were delighted to know that their work had inspired a young person enough to potentially change their life. They offered a golden opportunity for James: a 12-week Water sports Instructor Programme in the Isle of Wight with the potential for employment opportunities with UKSA later down the line.

Affinity and Havering Council (the placing Local Authority) put their heads and their resources together to agree sharing the funding for the course.

“Having been James’ social worker for well over a year, I have never seen him so passionate about wanting to do something,” says Ellie Rumbold, Social Worker at Havering Local Authority. “James has never been sure about what he wants to do in the future so when he shared that he was desperate to go back to the UKSA and study maritime and water-sports as a potential career, the Local Authority and Affinity did everything we could to make sure it would happen for him. Had Affinity Fostering not been working closely with the UKSA, this opportunity may never have arisen for James. I’m so proud of James for putting himself out there and for working as hard as he can.”

“As a fostering agency, we have a reputation of working very well with other professionals including the Local Authorities who place children with us,” adds Andy. “To see such obvious fruit coming from the relationships we have built over the years has given us a sense of pride and renewed commitment.”

Indeed, one of the many reasons Affinity is so successful in securing the best outcomes for children, and why Ofsted rate us as Outstanding, is that the team works creatively and passionately with other professionals to advocate for the needs of the children and to support the team surrounding the child to contribute to the very best care and nurture.

Affinity and beyond

But of course, all of Affinity’s best intentions and hard work would merely be academic were it not for the children themselves. Let’s not forget that James seized an opportunity, opened his heart and mind to it and committed himself to a path that will, we are sure, change his life. No-one but James can claim the credit for this.

James will need to work hard over the next 12 weeks, and he will need to stick at it, but he has already demonstrated he is capable of this, and we have high hopes for him as he sails out beyond Affinity.

Young person’s name has been changed

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