A silver gong for Doncaster care leavers

Two ‘Rising Stars’ from Doncaster Children’s Services Trust have scooped a top accolade in a national awards ceremony.

Care leavers turned young apprentices with the Trust, Becci Coole and Mica Ferrol, received a silver award when they attended a glittering ceremony in London after being shortlisted by judges as ‘Rising Stars’ at the MJ Local Government Achievement Awards.

Joining them were the Trust’s bosses, who were shortlisted for the Senior Leadership Team award.

Becci (19) and Mica (20) were applauded by judges for their ability to use their experiences of growing up in care to help shape services delivered by the Trust to help other children and young people.

In their role as Chief Executive’s Young Advisors, they have the ears of senior leaders and Board members at the Trust and have even visited Westminster to help influence national policies on issues such as mental health services for young people.

Becci and Mica were able to draw from their own experiences to work alongside the Head of Service for the leaving care services to ensure a better transition into independent adult life for young people; and worked closely with the Operational Manager of the Trust’s residential homes to rid them of their institutional appearance and practices – to turn them into proper homes.

They have also been involved in interviewing potential new members of staff; mentoring other young people in care; and delivering training, to help everyone who works at the Trust to understand what life it is really like for children and young people in care. This has been so successful that organisations outside the Trust have paid for it to be run for their staff and Becci, in true entrepreneurial spirit, suggested the money raised could be used to help fund care leavers going on to higher education or training. Trust Board members have named this ‘Becci’s Bursary’.

Becci said: “Mica and I were thrilled to be nominated and shortlisted for the award. I really enjoy my work as both a Young Advisor and a Modern Apprentice. I have learnt so many skills through my involvement with the Trust and it’s great that we’ve been given the chance to help other young people either in or leaving care. I’m really excited that through Becci’s Bursary, a care leaver is being supported with her dream to study for a Masters in Fine Arts at Lincoln University.”

Meanwhile, the Senior Leadership Team were selected as finalists for the prestigious awards. They were praised for having brought about a shift in culture and transforming children’s services in Doncaster. The establishment of the Trust in 2014, to deliver children’s social care on behalf of the council, was the first of its kind in the country. It received - and continues to receive - the full backing and support of Doncaster Council. Judges said the establishment of the Trust, ‘presented the leadership team with an opportunity for a fresh start which has been fully embraced’.

Having initially been deemed as ‘Inadequate ’ by Ofsted in 2015, the Trust and the Council achieved a ‘Good’ rating from the watchdog in January this year. Award judges said the Trust had faced ‘a really challenging issue’ of historic management failure ‘which has been turned around and tested through inspection’ with outstanding results for children.

Commenting on the awards success, Mark Douglas, the Trust’s Director of Children’s Social Care, said: “Becci and Mica are always stars to us at the Trust. Their work is invaluable in helping us to transform the services we deliver to help Doncaster’s children, young people and families.

“At the tender ages of just 19 and 20, respectively, Becci and Mica have both developed exceptional skills and, without a doubt, they will move forward in their life to reach their full potential and become the committed and respectful social workers they strive to be.

“On behalf of the Senior Leadership Team, I would also like to thank all our staff for their hard work and determination on our journey to achieving the Ofsted good rating; and Doncaster Council and our other partners for their invaluable support. We’ve achieved a lot but we still have more to do as we strive towards delivering an Ofsted ‘outstanding’ judgement for the services we provide for children, young people and families in Doncaster. ”

Cllr Nuala Fennelly, Cabinet Member for Children, Young People and Schools, said: “I am delighted for Becci and Mica, who have been recognised for their fantastic contribution to improve services at the Children’s Trust. Their work, along with the dedication and support of the senior leadership team, shows how far we have come in providing the best services we can for our children and young people and how we will continue to progress.”

“When I met with them, they were very complimentary about the support they’d had from you and the Trust in general. “

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