DfE-backed co-operative housing scheme for care leavers to launch

Neil Puffett
Friday, April 29, 2016

A council is set to launch a co-operative company to provide supported housing for care leavers as part of pioneering attempts to improve outcomes.

Stoke City Council has acquired properties for the venture and is set to start moving looked-after young people in to them as soon as the company – called The House Project Company Stoke-on-Trent – officially launches.

Children’s minister Edward Timpson has said that the co-operative, which will be partly run by the young people it supports, could be adopted by other local authorities if it proves successful.

The establishment of the scheme, which has taken place over the last 12 months, has been funded to the tune of £588,000 by the Department for Education’s Innovation Fund.

The project will initially start with five properties for five young people. A report put together by Stoke Council said this will provide sufficient time to identify the further five suitable properties and enable lessons to be learned and applied.

“Our aim is to move three young people into properties before the end of April, in line with DfE expectations and as soon as cabinet approval has been given and the subsequent establishment of the company and Secretary of State approval has been given.”

The council said it decided to launch the scheme because “outcomes for care leavers are unacceptable”.

“Our direct consultation with young people, backed up by data and national research, shows that moving to live alone at 18, having left care, does not work for many young people, who have described to us their loneliness, fear and the feeling that they have been ‘dropped off a cliff’,” the report states.

The report states that the council perceives the initiative as “a viable step down from residential care”, calculating that it could save £90,000 a year on the annual cost of between £150,000 and £200,000 per young person.

It also estimates that improved outcomes in terms of employment, mental health, reduction in placement breakdown, which will require fewer additional services, potentially saving in excess of £404,000 over a five-year period.

“Our solution gets to the heart of the issues that lie behind poor outcomes. It provides a structure through a co-operative business approach to help young people manage the challenges of independent living that they will face anyway.

“It gives them the opportunity to experience the control, ownership and pride in doing things for themselves that have been missing from their lives. [And] it provides comprehensive and co-ordinated support to enable them to be safe and succeed as co-owners and managers of their own housing organisation.

Young people involved with the project will receive support from two full-time “facilitators”, who will teach them independent living skills. There will also be supervision from a clinical psychologist and social care staff to ensure the safety and wellbeing of young people.

Speaking last year, when the funding to establish the project was first announced, children’s minister Edward Timpson said: “If it works, we have to think hard about how to share that experience with other local authorities.”

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