Future 4 Me
£1m to support 480 16- to 21-year-olds over four years from 2012 from the Big Lottery Fund's Youth in Focus programme
Youth housing and support charity 1625 Independent People wanted to improve outcomes for young people leaving care and custody. In 2011, it consulted young people, youth offending teams, leaving care and probation teams, as well as voluntary organisations and the Youth Justice Board-funded South West Resettlement Consortium to inform a plan of action.
The consultation revealed an unmet need among many young people for support with the practical and emotional challenges they encounter when embarking on independent life.
Future 4 Me, which started in March 2012, focuses on 16- to 21-year-olds in Bristol, South Gloucestershire, North Somerset, Bath and North East Somerset who have been identified by youth offending, probation or leaving care teams as at high risk of poor outcomes such as homelessness or living in unsafe accommodation.
Support is provided by a multi-disciplinary team comprising a service manager, mental health worker, resettlement worker and two education and employment workers as well as a participation and project learning worker. Each young person has a key worker from the team, providing intensive one-to-one support. Workers aim to meet young people as early as possible before they leave care or custody, allowing time to establish a relationship, build trust and gain understanding of what drives them. This enables them to compile a tailored package of support, regular structured activities and stable accommodation, for when their clients embark on independent life.
Once out of care or custody, they meet their key worker several times a week, gaining practical and emotional support to obtain and maintain tenancies, and access education, training or employment and health care. The team is linked to voluntary sector organisations that provide mentoring alongside activities such as boxing or arts.
Workers use a "psychologically-informed approach", using their understanding of what lies behind young people's behaviour to work with them in a constructive way. Participants go on to develop self-regulation, self-understanding and self-esteem, and forge strong reciprocal relationships within the organisation and beyond.
"We see relationships as the primary tool for change," says the charity's partnerships director, Jamie Gill. "Our aim is to put support in place earlier, so they can have structure and routine alongside safe accommodation.
"It's about helping young people to have belief in themselves and their future, to be aware of the opportunities around them. And it's about modelling positive relationships with them, giving them the confidence and skills to develop positive relationships."
Young people can be supported for six months to two years.
The programme has supported 365 young people to achieve one or more of four key outcomes - accommodation; positive activities; education, training and employment; and health and relationships.
By the end of March, 169 young people had progressed to good quality housing and support, against a target of 144. The project helped 174 young people manage their accommodation more independently through skills such as budgeting and paying rent, easily exceeding the 144 target. A total of 180 were helped to access positive activities, against a target of 125, and 167 increased their confidence and coping skills and were making positive choices, again beating the 105 target.
A total of 239 young people were helped to access education, training, employment and volunteering, against a target of 195. Meanwhile, 175 were better able to manage their physical health and emotional wellbeing, exceeding the target of 168.
An ongoing evaluation by the Faculty of Applied Sciences at the University of Gloucestershire found participants felt the project had inspired them and kept them out of prison.
Future 4 Me is one of seven finalists in the charity category of this year's National Lottery Awards.
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