Since July 2020, Leicestershire Cares has been running a programme centred on supporting care experienced young people’s mental wellbeing, resilience and reducing isolation by bringing people together, creating social connectiveness and developing peer to peer support.
Care experienced young people often face a lack of security, reliability and stability in their lives due to changing foster carers, social workers, home and school placements, as well as Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and complications around their birth family. When transitioning to adulthood and independence, care experienced young people can suffer poor mental wellbeing from difficulties to engage in positive activities such as education, employment or training and social groups due to little emotional, financial and personal support resulting in low self-esteem. It is reported that within the first two years of leaving care, one third of care leavers become homeless.
Findings from our work suggest that the national and local lockdowns have had an even greater impact on young people’s mental health and feelings of isolation. As a result, young people urgently need support from youth and community services and organisations to help them engage in positive activities which improve their mental health and enable them to socialise safely with others.
Leicestershire Cares set up a consultation team, made up of care experienced young people, to help us develop and plan the project, and identify workshops and activities that would strengthen their resilience and wellbeing. This took into account the changing restrictions. Using this co-production model gave the care experienced young people the tools and ownership of the solutions that would help improve their wellbeing.
Workshops and activities delivered so far have included wood carving, water sports, online arts and crafts, online cooking, gardening, group dinners, online film nights and quizzes, and selfcare hampers.
To date, 20 care experienced young people have taken part in the project.
Collectiveness, Purpose, Reinvest
The consultation group found that making collative decision made them feel less isolated and part of a team and community trying to make their lives, and others, better.
"My confidence has increased and I feel safer talking about my real life as a care experienced young person. Leicestershire Cares gave me a safe space to recognise its okay to embrace that part of myself. You also gave me the opportunity to create memories taken for granted by many others i.e. go karting and beaumanor - normally family type trips we miss out on. I actually have something to look back on for what is one of the most unsettled/lonely parts of a care experienced people’s life (turning 18, getting used to the real world etc.)."
"I really enjoy any opportunity to get outside and do something especially with other care experienced young people. It gives me a chance to socialise in that safe space and kick myself out of bed that day. Practical things are particularly good i.e. cooking and woodworking as they can have real life applications."
“Doing these activities [arts and craft sessions] allows me spread my creativity to others and that is my passion. As I have anxiety, I don’t cope well in groups but having a thing to do, takes your mind off of being in a group and you just start having conversations with people.”
“Being able to see people’s faces and have a face-to-face conversations feels so natural, but has been something that has been so hard to find over these last 5 months. It’s opportunities like this that Leicestershire Cares offer that are so positive for me holistically. Without being in care, I can’t imagine anything like this happening to me, or getting support like this.”
Having a reason to get up and out of bed was very important.
“The online community activities gave you a target for the day. Now we can meet face to face, I am even more motivated to join as it gives me a reason to leave my place and walk. I’ve put on so much weight over lockdown, and walking here has two benefits: health and wellbeing.”
"I didn’t engaged in many activities during lockdown as I didn’t like online stuff. But now I get out of my flat and see people which is good? I don't normally get out and about so it's a positive on my mental health for sure, to come to Leicestershire Cares."
The young people wanted to try as many new things as they could as they felt they had to ‘make up for lost time’ after lockdown.
“Today was really good, I really enjoyed it! Thank you for inviting me [to wood carving]. At first it was very stressful, but you all helped and supported me to get it right. I haven’t done it before and I’m sometimes afraid of trying new things because I don’t think I’ll be any good at it and I’ve been told I’m rubbish all my life, but your support and encouragement by everyone here has really me see that I can do new stuff.”
"Joing in has helped me become more confident and helps you towards independence. I feel like I'm in a good place mentally and I'mconfident to start looking for opportunities for voluntaryor paid jobs to do with animals. I think that would improve my mental health even more."
They want to do something that gives back to their community. The group has plans to raise money for a local cause and going forward, this is something they are currently discussing: a sponsored 24-hour gaming marathon, cake bake, art auction, sponsored walk/run of cycle are some of the ideas so far.
“Listening to other people that have had similar life experiences to me has really helped me. I don’t feel as alone. Coming up with a list of things to do to help care experienced young people stay strong during Christmas made me feel like I was doing something important. I want to do more of that sort of thing.”
Building on our learning
In the coming weeks, we plan to build on what we have achieved so far to:
- Strengthen the bond of our consultation group by taking them on a team building day at Leicester Outdoor Pursuits Centre.
- Develop collective support: looking at more ways the young people can support one another through advice, emotional and practical support with potential to train others.
- Build resilience through connection: integrating our young people in the community through volunteering and campaigning.
- Getting outside and moving our bodies.
 Children’s Commissioner for England (2020). Stability Index 2020. Available here: https://www.childrenscommissioner.gov.uk/report/stability-index-2020/
 National Audit Office (2015). Care Leavers’ Transition to Adulthood. Available here: https://www.nao.org.uk/report/care-leavers-transitions-to-adulthood/
 Leicestershire Cares (2020). Life Under Lockdown Report. Available here: https://www.leicestershirecares.co.uk/about-charity/news-events/life-under-local-lockdown/
Our work with care experienced young people
- Find out about the work we do with care experienced young people: mental wellbeing, employment and training, campaigning for Care Leavers rights, building social connection.
- Sign our Promise to Care
- Hear the voices of care experienced young people in our Podcasts
- Taking Hold of Our Heritage project. Get a digital download of the book
- Become a mentor to a care experienced young person
For more information about our work with care experienced young people, please contactJacob Brown: firstname.lastname@example.org