Posted 29th July 2021

The pandemic has been a challenge for a number of reasons and where the impact has been positive, it has largely been related to the value of relationships and the way that individuals have been supported in, and by their communities.

Young people leaving care typically experience a journey to adulthood that is ‘accelerated and compressed’ compared to their peers in the general population. This takes place without the practical, emotional and financial support typically offered by birth families which can lead to them being isolated and without the warmth and enrichment of ‘community’ that the general population enjoy.

The process of moving on from care placements is reflected in our Charity vision with young people living ‘independent lives’ and whilst they do this with a community of peer support, this does not give any guarantee that we would achieve the latter part of our vision statement that young people would live ‘fulfilling lives’. To achieve this, we know that young people need more than just independence. They need the chance to provide mutual support and expand social networks, the  opportunity to explore hobbies and interests in the community and to have a purpose and sense of direction in their lives (Education, Employment, Training) that can only come from interdependence.

In the early stages of establishing the Charity it was important that we focused on providing both the activities and events that equip young people with the skills, experience and confidence to move in to, and manage their first home and a shared experience with other young people leaving care to avoid the isolation that so many experienced. The House Project approach is relational and was from the outset codesigned with groupwork as a key tenet to develop communication skills and relationships. With this as a focus we are pleased that young people often describe their House Project experience as providing a sense of belonging and of being part of a family…

The relationships built on the project are one of the best things… it creates your own family in the end” Young Person

“The House Project are unrelated family” Young Person

‘’Being involved in the project makes them feel like they have a family’’ Young People to Ofsted Inspectors  

“The House Project has given me a sense of family, support and friendship that I never got from foster care” Young Person 

In addition to developing a peer support network in their own House Project, young people develop connections with the other 260 young people across the 13 projects. At a recent event in which young people came together from the three projects in Scotland, they found connection to each other. They also developed a realisation that it is happening down South(which meant England!) and felt empowered that they were a part of something bigger.

Two young people from each LA represent their House Project as part of CLNM and this enables them to build relationships outside of their LA, develop a community approach and advocate on behalf of other members within their own House Project. Young people value the connections to CLNM and NHP…

“I love being part of this group (CLNM) as it’s a community coming together”

“It’s taken years to find a family, now I call the National House Project family”

 As NHP evolves we continue to develop our approach so that young people are more engaged in their identified communities  and can experience what one young person described as…

"A little bit of joy and hope"  Young Person

House Project staff are trained in a trauma informed approach and build relationships that are supportive and enduring. Young people value these relationships, and it is the work of the staff to help young people develop trusting relationships in the community. Where this works well it is valued…

“House Projects mean to me – having the support of the community” Young Person

NHP staff have worked with project staff to explore how they provide ongoing support to young people who have moved into their own homes and how they support them with their connections in their communities. Whilst elements of the House Project Programme focus on networking and relationships with business partners and communities, the move towards interdependence is ongoing. Now that restrictions are easing, we will be revisiting the first cohort of young people from Stoke (2016/17) to get their input on how they think this should be developed.

In addition, NHP staff recently attended training in Social Pedagogy and have incorporated new ways of working in the recently delivered facilitator training. Working alongside young people, sharing experiences and modelling behaviours is key to building confidence in young people to access their communities.  

With young people facing the prospect of living in their own homes t is not surprising that this focus on developing interdependence has been reflected in their thoughts and feedback. When codesigning their peer evaluation with researchers from Partnership for Young London representatives of CLNM highlighted ‘community’ as one of their three priorities and the focus for their annual conference in October. We will use the evaluation findings to inform the NHP approach to supporting this work.

The focus on interdependence is not levelled solely at young people but relates to all aspects of the Charity and in order to improve the leaving care experience for our young people it is imperative that we build relationships and communities to achieve our goals. One of the many successes of this approach was highlighted by CYPNow who awarded the Wolverhampton House Project with the Leaving Care Award recognising the partnership of a Charity (NHP) a LA (Wolverhampton City Council) and a business partner (Reconomy).

So, whilst our vision statement refers to ‘independent’ in the context of moving on from LA placements, the approach to achieving ‘fulfilling lives’ is based on interdependence and connection with community. I continue to be humbled to work with young people who are so giving and supportive of peers, who recognise vulnerability to others in society and yet don’t have the same opportunities to be engaged in communities.

It is our role to develop the scaffolding to enable young people to be positively involved in and supported by communities that have meaning to them.

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