Care leavers owning their own future

A group of ten young people in care are poised to fly the nest and become independent adults – all with a helping hand from a new housing scheme delivered in partnership between Doncaster Children’s Services Trust, Doncaster Council, St Leger Homes and The National House Project.

Preparations are underway to welcome the teenagers into the scheme after Doncaster Children’s Services Trust has been selected to take part in the second phase of a National House Project pilot scheme, funded through the Department for Education (DfE).

The idea is for the group of 16/17 year-olds to form a supportive community among themselves. They will also receive intensive support from the Trust’s newly-formed House Project Team. The team will guide the group towards becoming independent ahead of them turning 18, when they will, if required, be supported in applying for a tenancy with St Leger Homes or another suitable housing provider.

Manager of the Doncaster House Project, Mags Silvester, said: “A high percentage of tenancies among care leavers fail because they are not prepared for independent living when they come out of care at the age of 18. This is not only in Doncaster but a national problem.”

A third of care leavers experience homelessness between 6-24 months after leaving care. By doing it differently, the National House Project pilot in Stoke-on-Trent had a 90% success rate for tenancy stability and a transformative effect on young people's life chances.

“This project will help do the groundwork to prepare them and equip them with the skills they need to run a home and live as independent adults and prevent that cycle of failure” says Mags.

The young people will be supported in choosing which affordable area of Doncaster they would each like to live in and St Leger Homes will assist in identifying suitable properties in those areas when the young person has finished their induction programme. At this point, the young people will be given a budget to renovate their property.

They will do much of the work themselves, utilising the skills of others in the group and with help from the Trust’s House Project team. Staff and young people will be advised and work alongside skilled trades people to ensure that the more difficult areas of work are completed safely and to a high standard.

Before then, two newly appointed House Project Facilitators, Mica Ferrol and Josh Yates, will be working with the group, who have been carefully selected, to deliver independent living skills, including budgeting, cooking, paying bills, making appointments and housekeeping, among others.

“It is basically like an apprenticeship,” said Mica, herself a former care leaver, adding: “This groundwork will help the group to form friendships and become a community whose members will support each other and share skills.

“I know how difficult it can be dealing with a property and paying bills from my own experience when I left care.”

Josh said: “I’m really excited. The three of us are currently preparing the programme of support we will deliver and can’t wait to start working with the group of young people shortly.”

The project is to be funded by the Department for Education for two years, after which the Trust will have the option to find funding elsewhere to extend it. The House Project will also save the Trust money whilst delivering improved outcomes for young people leaving the care system.

During the next two years, the project will be monitored at regular intervals and evaluated by York University.

It follows hard on the heels of a hugely successful scheme which the Trust launched earlier this year, again in partnership with the council and St Leger Homes, through which the first group of six care leavers have been learning independent living skills while living together in a six bed supported living facility created out of two houses in Cantley. After just seven months, the scheme has saved the Trust £119,000 on placement costs.

Chief Executive of Doncaster Children’s Services Trust, Paul Moffat said: “We are thrilled to be working with The National House Project, the council and St Leger Homes on this project, building on our previous successes and supporting more of our young people to learn the skills to give them the best start to living independently.”

Mark Warr, Chief Executive of The National House Project said: “We are delighted to be working with Doncaster. The links between social care, the council and St Leger Homes are already very positive which is an excellent starting point. We are very much looking forward to meeting the young people and seeing them flourish as the project becomes established.

Paul Tanney, Chief Executive of St Leger Homes said: “We are delighted to be supporting this project, which follows the success of the Cantley scheme. Both projects provide care leavers with a safe and secure home whilst providing them with really important life skills which will enable them to live more independently. We look forward to hearing about their progress.

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