As part of our research, children and young people have highlighted that they want to feel included in placements and there are a range of good practice examples and activities to assist with this.
One example of this is the work undertaken by Voices from Care Cymru, whose aim is to improve the lives of care experienced children and young people in Wales by being an independent voice for the care community.
As part of their work, they provide a range of diversionary and participation activities, designed to encourage hobbies and having fun, and getting children and young people involved in community groups and activities that they may not have opportunities to engage in before.
For example, they had a virtual sleepover during Covid as CYP fed back that they were missing out on such activities like this. They also organise a “National Proud” that encourages young people to come together and talk about the issues affecting them, as well as some local participation groups that are funded by the Local authority.
Another participation activity is their Wellbeing service for young people who are care experienced (have been or are being looked after in Wales). This is generally individual support given by their Wellbeing Team on a wide range of problems, issue and concerns that effect many young people who have been in care. As part of the Wellbeing service, VFCC provides independent advocacy for care experienced young people who need support so that their voice is heard on issues that are important to them and affect them directly. Support is available for as long as people require it, and counselling services provided are free.
Getting Ready is a project, delivered by Voices from Care Cymru with Children in Wales ( funded via the Welsh Government ‘Suitable Provision and Support Innovation Fund – Homelessness Prevention Grant’) operating in 3 local authority areas in Wales – Ynys Mon, Carmarthenshire and Rhondda Cynon Taff. The project provides a three-tiered support model for those young people transitioning from care; individual support, peer support, community support. One of the funds aims is to increase the housing support available to vulnerable young people who are transitioning from local authority care
The Getting Ready project complements the current Welsh Government “When I’m Ready” scheme, providing a more intensive intervention, which seeks to echo the support and guidance that non-looked after young people receive within a family setting. This will seek to address some of the inequalities faced by the care-experienced population when transitioning from care.
Finally, another example used is peer support groups. VfCC have a pilot group of care-experienced parents, and they aim to develop more peer support groups. For example, plans are afoot to develop a group for university students, for LGBT+ group, and for men in prison in North Wales.
The voices of the participants in these groups has enabled some excellent insight and learning for organisations and professionals, as well as allowing support for group members. It has been described as “a saving grace” and a place where participants can come together and offload safely, and in an environment that can feel less judgemental than professional support.