Ask the Experts: Providing support for care leavers

Jeanie Lynch, Tracie Trimmer-Platman, Peter Lewis and June O'Sullivan
Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Our panel offers advice on care leavers' support, promoting positive social action, nursery transitions and performance management.

Ensure care leavers have the right support to make the transition to independent living
Ensure care leavers have the right support to make the transition to independent living

Question: I'm working with a young man who has just left care and been placed in a bed and breakfast. I've heard on the grapevine this establishment is a hotspot for adults with drug and alcohol problems and for people leaving prison. What should I do?

Jeanie Lynch: Placing young care leavers in bed and breakfast accommodation should be a short-term or emergency solution. But the reality is many are placed there for 28 days or longer due to a lack of suitable alternatives, often ending up in this situation with little support. That's why Barnardo's launched its Beyond Care campaign to reduce the use of B&B accommodation for this vulnerable group.

Is there a supported lodgings scheme in your area you could refer this young man to? This would ensure he was properly supported in a clean, safe environment with staff who could help him make the transition to independent living.

Local authorities need to improve planning for young people leaving care to ensure this type of situation does not become the norm.

Jeanie Lynch works for Barnardo's and has 25 years' experience of working with vulnerable children and families

Question: My manager is convinced there will be a backlash from the recent clashes between police and young people in the US and fears the same will happen in the UK. Her attitude is creating tension within our youth centre. Any suggestions?

Tracie Trimmer-Platman: It is not out of the question that young people might be influenced by what goes on in the US. As youth workers, we should encourage young people to vocalise their feelings and the tension you describe may be an opportunity.

Disperse the tension by discussing what is happening in the US. Identify the issues and examine the social, economic and political environment and how it compares to the UK.

Encourage young people to explore opportunities available locally to make their voices heard and campaign or raise awareness about issues that matter to them. Make a New Year resolution to engage in positive social and political action.

Tracie Trimmer-Platman is senior lecturer in youth and community work at the University of East London

Question: Some parents at my nursery are worried about the move from the baby unit into over-twos provision. How do we help manage their anxiety?

June O'Sullivan: Transitions are always an anxious time. Baby units are generally smaller and cosier, and many parents will have formed strong bonds with staff and other parents there. By contrast, over-twos areas can be busier and noisier.

Help parents cope with the change by encouraging them to be actively involved in it. Reassure them the move will be decided by them and take account of their child's age, ability, needs and capacity for change. Introduce parents to the new key person or manager and explain how children are gradually introduced to the new room.

Ensure the child's current key worker involves parents in preparations for the change such as reviewing their progress and working out next steps, and practical tasks such as making name tags for their new coat peg or basket.

Be open, honest and supportive to parents. If they cope well with the transition, then so will the child and this will set a positive pattern for future transitions such as going to school, the arrival of a new baby or moving house.

June O'Sullivan is chief executive of the childcare charity and social enterprise, the London Early Years Foundation

Question: The council's corporate performance management people are all over our data and performance. This is not the job I signed up for as director of children's services. What do I do?

Peter Lewis: Performance management will not go away, nor should it. Like it or not, there is a link between performance data and the quality of the work you do. Knowing how well you are doing tells you where your strengths are and what to build on. Knowing what isn't going well points to the improvements you need to make.

Could this be more about how the process works and how information is gathered, shared and used? The data should be part of the everyday professional discourse between you and your colleagues. It should be natural to talk about it in a way that invites suggestions for improvement and ensures lessons are learned from good practice.

If you feel you should be left alone to do what you want, you have missed the point. As a director of children's services, you should welcome discussion about performance. If you are not interested or prepared to do it, it may be time to look for a different job.

Peter Lewis is a freelance providing interim local authority children's services leadership, and a former DCS in Haringey

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