Our care leavers will never stop surprising you

Read the latest blog from Andy as part of our special series of blogs for National Care Leavers' week. 

So I am already at the end of day three. Although I remain tired and hungry most of the time, I actually ended up having a brilliant afternoon with my care leavers for the premier of their film.                          

In the summer our amazing team took some of our older care leavers on a residential. As part of the trip, our care leavers created a film to support new care leavers joining the service. The film highlighted their experiences of being in care, their transition to independence and the pitfalls they encountered along the way. By sharing their stories they hope to give young people who are new to the service advice and let them know that they are not alone on their journey.

The film is incredibly personal and powerful. It highlights both the good and the bad experiences our young people have encountered. It is an impossibly brave and selfless thing to share your life so openly with strangers in the hope it might help others.

I often wonder whether I could do that. Lay it all out there, good and bad if it might help others and I’m not sure that I could. That’s the amazing thing about our care leavers they never stop surprising you. Their resilience, candor and the way they look out for each other is an example to us all.

Yesterday, we held an extended “Cooking with Andy”. Now usually we create a meal together that can be made for under £10 for four portions, which is healthy and nutritious and exposes our young people to ingredients they might not otherwise of tried. Fennell was the outstanding favourite in the past year. Today our care leavers wanted to create a buffet for the premier of their film. The buffet included afternoon tea and chicken kebabs, so I guess you can add eclectic to those other qualities I mentioned earlier!

I was joined today by a couple of our other Heads of Services, Pauline Turner and Richard Fawcett, who are both really invested in how we can engage with our young people better. And although Pauline’s sandwiches weren’t perfectly triangular she did a pretty good job and Richard definitely did a good job of eating them!

It was a great day and I have never been more grateful in life for all that food, not least because it was the first meat I’ve eaten in days! Everyone had a blast, but the main topic of conversation, apart from the film, was how I was getting on this week.

Pretty much of all them were laughing at my complaints and giving me helpful tips on how to make my money stretch further. It became clear that the model is currently used for “Cooking with Andy”, is way off in terms of the cost.  

For those care leavers who aren’t in a position to work for a number of reasons, I just didn’t realise how much £10 accounted for when everything else was deducted. So the challenge for me is to reduce the cost of these meals by half, whilst still ensuring our care leavers get to explore new foods and learn how to cook healthy and nutritional meals. And at the same time build on the great work that is already happening within the service to help support our young people to budget and to get them into further training or employment.

If there are any supermarkets, business or philanthropists out there reading this who wants to get involved then please drop me a line.   

So all in all it’s been the best day since I started, mainly because I spent most of it in the company of our care leavers. I didn’t spend any money because of the buffet and I’m learning so much about their lived experience, but you know what I don’t like some of what I’m learning.

Lastly,I just wanted to say thanks to all of you have been following this on Twitter and on Doncaster Children’s Services Trust’s website. Your messages of support and encouragement have been incredibly heartening and appreciated.

Check back in tomorrow when I’ll be updating you on the football match between Rotherham and Doncaster care leavers as part of our care leavers week celebrations (C’mon Donny!!)


Andy Hood

Head of Service for Targeted Youth Support at Doncaster Children’s Services Trust


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