- The service is funded by the charity Break, which has six children's homes in Norfolk and Cambridgeshire, and a therapeutic fostering service for traumatised young people
- The Moving On team works closely with staff in Break homes to get to know young people before they are offered the service
In 2010, the Department for Education produced the Children's Homes Challenge and Improvement Programme to help residential child care providers better prepare young people for independent living. It aimed to give a renewed focus on the important role care providers play in helping young people transition, and address concerns they were not being adequately taught life skills.
Break was ahead of the curve. The charity's transition service started in 2009, and by 2012 a more comprehensive Moving On team, incorporating a mentoring service, was established.
The Moving On team, which consists of two mentoring co-ordinators and four transition workers, provides support and advice for young people aged 16 to 18 living in one of Break's six children's homes or its dedicated transitions house, where they can stay for up to two years. Much of the team's work is spent in the community supporting care leavers, some of whom are in their mid-20s.
Janes van Vollenstee, Moving On team manager, says workers are typically introduced to Break's children informally before they turn 16, so that they can get to know them and gain their trust. They can move into the transitions house from the age of 16 to 18, and can stay for up to two years.
Once a young person has chosen to take part - the scheme is voluntary - the team teaches them how to eat healthily on a tight budget, manage their money, find accommodation, and find employment, education and training opportunities.
Support varies, from informal outings - Vollenstee says his co-ordinators will sometimes take the young people out for a meal - to regular, pre-arranged drop-in sessions at the transition house.
"We offer practical support in the home - anything from hoovering to garden maintenance. If there's a loose door handle, we show them how to tighten it up." Vollenstee says.
The young people in the home are financially independent, and have their own incomes through employment or state support.
"We help them with budgeting," he adds. "Every now and then when there's a hiccup with money, we make sure they don't run out of food. We'll help them with a small food shop to tide them over until they get their next payment."
The team's support also encompasses helping the young people understand the emotional challenges of independent living. "We help with their emotional resilience, how to spot when you feel down, and what to do to stop you from spiralling," Vollenstee adds.
He admits it takes some young people longer than others to adapt, and says they are the ones who benefit most from living in the transition house.
Break's network of 52 charity shops, facility maintenance services, fundraising activities and administration roles offer the perfect opportunities for active learning.
"We offer apprenticeships or work experience," Vollenstee says. "We match them up to their skills - I call it ‘skillful manipulation' - and spend a lot of time motivating them. We slowly build that, not trying to get to the outcome straight away."
The team also consists of around 30 mentors. Vollenstee says one of the reasons for their success is that the mentors choose to spend time with the young people.
"Young people find it awesome to be told the mentors don't get paid and want to spend their free time with them," he says.
"We host regular and monthly house meetings, and have individual time with each young person living in the house so that we don't see the residents together all the time, so they can express any concerns," Vollenstee adds.
Research was conducted between mid-2014 and March 2015 with 20 young people in Break homes by the Centre for Research on Children & Families and the University of East Anglia.
Young people said transition workers were a "lifeline" and were "highly valued".
Young people often likened the staff to family members, and said the discussion of moving on never came out of the blue.
"Transitions workers' efforts for young people went well beyond the visits," the report stated, "with staff going the extra mile".
The review stated that all the young people maintained some kind of "useful contact" with a transitions worker upon leaving care, however this led to some concerns about the size of caseloads.
It concluded that staff in Break homes and the Moving On team worked well together.