NYAS (National Youth Advocacy Service) has teamed up with Wirral Council to launch our SidebySide programme. The unique project is aimed at supporting and mentoring young care leavers and works to bridge the gap between leaving care and finding their own way in the world.

The programme includes access to a dedicated SidebySide volunteer who has been trained to support their matched young person for a minimum of 12 months, commencing March 2021. The volunteers will also use their own personal skills and experience to provide bespoke support to help them achieve their goals.

Young people face numerous challenges when they transition out of care; often, they are 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.

In addition to mentoring support, the care leavers taking part will receive an information pack, support bursary up to the value of £500 and up to ten hours of advocacy support, if required, from a NYAS-qualified independent advocate.

Jamie Pope, NYAS Chief Operating Officer England, said, “We are delighted to partner with Wirral Council to launch our pilot SidebySide programme.

“Care leavers are talented, resourceful and skilled young people. They are aspirational, they want more, they want to do well, and to belong. Leaving home is a big adjustment for everyone, but young people leaving care often do so without the support of a loving family.

“We need to help them be the best that they can be and want for them what we would want for our own children. We are grateful to everyone who has supported this project and enabled us to provide additional mentoring support for care leavers. SidebySide will help young people who leave care to have the opportunity to thrive and be offered the same life chances as their peers to fulfil their full potential”

Paul Boyce OBE, Wirral’s Director for Children, Families and Education said: “ I am very pleased that Wirral Council were given the opportunity to be included in the NYAS SidebySide pilot project. In my early conversations with the NYAS team, it was clear that this programme was innovative and complimented the offer provided by Council Children’s Services.

“Little did I know in 2019 that a national pandemic was on the horizon and the offer for Wirral care leavers, presented by SidebySide, would be needed more than ever! A number of Wirral care leavers have now been matched with the NYAS trained volunteers and will be supported on their journey leaving care and transitioning into further learning and employment.

“The additional mentoring arrangements provided by the SidebySide programme volunteers will support positive mental health with our care leavers through regular check-ins. The mentors will also offer the young people further guidance into positive pathways as they move towards greater independence.

“Working alongside the Council Leaving Care and 14-19 Services, I am confident this project will provide a life changing experience for Wirral care leavers.”

Care leaver, Abbey Davies, aged 20 who has signed up to the SidebySide programme said: “I first heard about SidebySide from my personal advisor when I mentioned I wanted to write a book on my life in care. I found the whole process really easy going and liked the fact I was given options on who my volunteer would be. The whole process was much quicker than I thought it would be and I have been in regular contact with Paula, the project coordinator, updating me on where we’re up to and just checking in on me.”

For every young care leaver we support, it costs £3500 per person. This has been generously funded with support from Premier Miton and other voluntary donations. It is currently being delivered to care leavers in Wirral but it is intended to expand the service across other regions in the country.

Make a donation or find out more about SidebySide, please contact sidebyside@nyas.net