The number of children in care in England is rising drastically. This is deeply worrying not only in itself, but because young people leaving care are especially vulnerable to becoming homeless. Depaul UK has teamed up with Stockport Council to tackle the problem.
New analysis shows the number of young people in care could hit almost 100,000 by 2025: a 36 per cent rise in a decade. Most commonly, young people go into care because of neglect or abuse, including sexual, emotional, financial and physical abuse. By the time they reach 18 years old, 1 in 4 young care leavers find themselves homeless.
Depaul UK’s pioneering new supported accommodation, Shaw Heath, wants to change this story. We spoke to the manager, Peter Morgan, to find out how.
“You have to leave on your 18th birthday. How is that for your 18th birthday present?”
Peter describes some of the challenges young people face; “On the day you turn 18, you are an adult and you will leave care on that day. Some of our young people are not prepared.”
“They have not been living in a family set up, where you learn about paying bills, attending school and even using the washing machine. Their life skills are not there. They leave care with few or no friends, no social circle, no kinfolk, no one they have shared memories of growing up with. They are disadvantaged from the get-go.”
Shaw Heath aims to tackle those huge disadvantages, but with a simple model. It consists of two neighbouring houses, one with a high level of support, and a second with a greater level of independence. The aim is an injection of intensive support at a vital time in their lives.
Peter and the team support the young people to develop independent living skills such as cooking, cleaning and personal hygiene. Managing budgets and understanding the wider benefits of work is also critical, and the young people access programmes for education, training and employment.
“These are young people with their whole life ahead of them. We continually support and believe in their aspirations, so they will go on to make a positive contribution to society.”
Shaw Heath shows that by providing young people leaving care with support and a safe place to stay, they can develop the skills to equip them for independent living.
As Peter says, “By intervening with specialist support in these young people’s lives, we can help them gain independence skills, start to address emotional trauma, get back into education, training or work and equip themselves to live independently.”