NYAS is proud to announce the launch of SidebySide, a unique programme designed to reduce the feelings of isolation and loneliness experienced by thousands of young care leavers across England and Wales every year.

The programme, informed by care leavers themselves, was launched today to an audience of key influencers and business-people at a special event, held at the House of Commons.

Every year 10,000 young people leave care and many are thrust into the adult world before they are ready, facing a life without the support of family and friends that so many of us take for granted.

According to statistics:

  • 27% of the prison population, and half of all prisoners under 25, were in care.
  • Looked after children and care leavers are between four and five times more likely to attempt suicide in adulthood.
  • Over 50% of children in care have, or develop, a mental illness.
  • Care leavers are twenty five times more likely to be homeless than children who have not been ‘looked after’

To tackle the issue, the SidebySide programme will help young people to bridge the gap between leaving care and finding their own way in the world, providing a broad range of support and mentoring.

The support on offer to young people taking part in the scheme will include access to a dedicated SidebySide volunteer to support them for a minimum of 12 months;  up to 10 hours of advocacy support, if required, from a NYAS qualified and independent advocate and access to the NYAS freephone helpline in the evenings and weekends for support and/or signposting.

They will also receive  a SidebySide care leavers information pack with useful key contacts and practical advice, along with a job interview guarantee and opportunities to undertake modern apprenticeships, work ‘shadowing’ or short-term work placements. Assistance will also be given with job applications, C.V. preparation, interviewing skills and filling in official forms (housing, benefits, university, college etc.)

Each young person will also be offered the chance to undergo NYAS mentoring training, free of charge, enabling them to become  ‘peer mentors’ for other young people joining the programme.

SidebySide will be piloted with three local authorities during 2020, and benefit up to 30 young people. An academic evaluation of the scheme will then take place, before it is rolled out to additional areas.

The programme has been informed by the NYAS Care Leavers Forum – a group of care experienced young people who are working with NYAS to help improve the experience of care leavers in the UK.

NYAS Chief Executive, Rita Waters, said, “Young people tell us they’re missing the skills and trusted people they need to help them navigate this new chapter in their lives.  Some lack a positive adult role model, while others  struggle to access education, employment, health services, or to maintain financial security.

“Every young person in care and leaving care should expect to receive the very best care alongside the support and love they need to thrive. The impact of having been in care does not end at 18, 21 or even 25. It is a continuous lifetime experience that can have lasting effects. Side by Side will help to ensure that this journey is as positive as possible.

“Care leavers are talented, resourceful and skilled young people. They are aspirational, they want more, they want to do well, and to belong. We need to help them be the best that they can be and want for them what we would want for our own children. NYAS wants every young person who leaves care to have the opportunity to thrive and be offered the same life chances as their peers to fulfil their full potential.

NYAS is now seeking to engage with supporters, funders and volunteers to help deliver SidebySide.

For further information please email sidebyside@nyas.net