Quite a mouthful isn’t it!!! For young Careleavers aged 16 or over this is an important participation network that works alongside the National Leaving Care Benchmarking Forum supported by the National Care Advisory Service.
In West Sussex young people have only recently been involved in the Young Peoples Benchmarking forum (YPBMF)supported through our Children In Care Council Co-ordinator. The young people have gained a significant amount through being involved in this forum, especially meeting other careleavers from around the country and contributing to getting their voice heard.
On Thursday last week West Sussex Youth Support and Development Servivce were priviledged to be able to host a meeting on the south coast (many of the previous meetings have usually been held further North which has involved a considerable amount of travel for those concerned.) The YPBMF is facilitated by Catch 22 and along with a range of staff about 20 young people attended the meeting. Unfortunately Tim Loughton the Childrens Minister was unable to attend however he has recheduled to meet with the group in the New Year.
For me it was great to meet a pro active group of young people who are enthusiastic and positive about making changes to our systems and services in order to improve outcomes for others. Something that really struck me from their conversations was the breadth of disparity between local authority provision for Care Leavers. We often hear talk of the postcode lottery with regards to Health Services however these young people are experiencing this very thing from their Corporate Parents about their own living & educational needs. Although there is guidance concerning Care Leavers there is no clear offer to young people who are leaving care as this is very much defined by the local authority who have overall control of the budgets. This means that it can be very confusing for a young person to know what to expect and who to hold accountable.
The young people spent time looking at the questions that they hope to put to the Minister in the future, especially those to do with their entitlement and needs. Catch 22 staff were excellent at facilitating the session, particularly supporting young people to think about potential responses to their questions and how they could ensure that they got a real answer rather than a politically correct one. This was a great example of facilitating young peoples voice.
Many thanks to Catch 22 and the forum for providing food for thought and I hope that in the future they will be given sufficient time to raise their carefully thought through concerns. I look forward to hearing how they get on!