At the heart of our work is a commitment to giving young people with care experience a voice, so that they themselves can shape our work and influence change. As such, our work will fall into five priority areas.
Priority 1: Care experienced young people are loved, respected, valued, listened to
Many young people’s experience of being looked after can leave them feeling that they are not valued and respected. Where young people with care experience have made successful transitions into adult life, they frequently describe a close relationship with a key person – e.g. a foster carer, a support worker, an advocate – which made a difference and helped them to believe in a positive future.
Priority 2: Care experienced young people are in safe and settled accommodation
For young people leaving care, finding themselves in safe, settled accommodation is extremely important, but many feel forced to leave care before they are ready. Care experienced young people have said their priorities include a choice of when to leave care, being properly prepared and feeling safe and supported. These factors can increase a person’s chances of accessing education, training and employment and contributes to better health and well-being.
Priority 3: Care experienced young people have access to support and guidance when and where they need it
Care experienced young people’s access to support and guidance can be highly dependent on where they live. It can be patchy and inconsistent and can be a bewildering and frustrating process at a time when they might be at their most vulnerable. Many care experienced young people are either not receiving any services when they are no longer classed as looked after, or they are receiving a limited service.
Priority 4: Care experienced young people have increased access to education, training and employment
Like all young people, young care leavers face more competition for education and training opportunities, housing and access to employment. For young care leavers already struggling without the support of family, these obstacles can make their transitional journey complicated and at times feel quite hopeless.
Priority 5: Care experienced young people lead healthy lives
Many looked after children and young people enter care with poor physical and mental health. These health issues may worsen during a time of transition when they are likely to experience higher levels of stress. Care experienced young people say their poor health is often related to their past experiences, housing, poor relationships and how they feel about life in general.
We will know that there has been progress when care experienced young people talk about a better quality of life and sense of well-being, and when they can say:
- I live in a place that suits me and my needs
- I am able to be as independent as possible
- I get the help I need when I need it
- I feel safe, listened to, valued and respected
- I am inspired and able to do the things that are important to me
This evidence will be gathered directly from care experienced young people themselves, fed back to us by people who are in day-to-day contact with them, and through research.