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.
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.
To tackle the issue, we have created “Side by Side” a programme which 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 Side by Side 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 Side by Side 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.
Side by Side will be piloted with three local authorities during 2020, and will benefit up to 30 young people.
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.
Care leavers are talented, resourceful and skilled young people. They are aspirational, they want more, they want to do well, and to belong. We want for them what we would want for our own children.