Young people's involvement in the Pan London Care Leavers Offer

The Pan London Care Leavers Offer forms part of the work by the Association of London Directors of Children’s Services (ALDCS) and is led by a strategic working group of policy makers from ALDCS, London Councils, Partnership for Young London (PYL) and The Greater London Authority.


Background

The development of the Pan London Care Leavers Offer is taking place across the 32 London Boroughs and the City of London. The initiative aims to create more aligned services and support for care leavers in order to improve the outcomes for looked after children and young people when leaving care. This is in response to differences in the current offer to care leavers between London Boroughs.

The Pan London Care Leavers Offer forms part of the work by the Association of London Directors of Children’s Services (ALDCS) and is led by a strategic working group of policy makers from ALDCS, London Councils, Partnership for Young London (PYL) and The Greater London Authority. The Strategic Working Group is supported by a number of Practitioner Groups - the Leaving Care Network, the Participation Workers Group and Practice Leads Group. As well as representatives from children’s social care, the Practitioner Groups also involve other sectors, such as health, charities, and housing providers. The work is funded for a year by a Department for Education Implementation grant.

Young people are informing the development of the Care Leavers Offer through the Pan London Children in Care Council (CiCC), a pre-established group of care experienced young people from across London, who meet to improve the care experience for young people across London by engaging with policy makers. The Pan London CiCC is run by the Partnership for Young London (PYL) a youth charity and commissioned by the Association of London Directors of Children’s Services (ALDCS) along with the City of London Corporation.

Engagement of young people

The pan London CiCC is made up of representatives, aged 14 to 25-years-old from all 32 boroughs and the City of London. They are recruited from the local CiCCs based in each borough.

The young people are motivated by using their lived experience and ideas to improve both their own lives and those of their peers. A key part of enabling young people’s engagement in the Pan London CiCC is also the support given to them from their local CiCCs. Council officers from local CiCCs actively support the pan London work, enabling the young people to attend meetings and promoting the initiative.

Activities

Through the Pan London CiCC’s monthly meetings, young people identified a number of policy areas for the Care Leavers Offer, such as health and housing. Steering groups known as ‘Houses’ have been set up related to these themes, in order to bring together individuals from the Practice Leads group together with young people from the CICC. Each Steering Group is co-chaired by a sector lead from the Practitioner Groups, and by a young person from the CiCC. The Steering Groups aim to take a developmental approach to policy within the Pan London Care Offer. They will set out the expectations for delivery of council care services looking for both short term ‘quick-wins’ and longer term more ambitious goals. This will enable the Pan London Care Leavers Offer to be developed iteratively and progressively improved.

Young people from the Pan London CiCC worked with PYL to chair and plan a Care Leavers Offer consultation event. The event brought together 98 people from across the London boroughs including young people with a mixture of different care experiences, directors of children’s services and care service managers. It aimed to enable young people and policy makers to collaboratively explore what the Care Leavers Offer could look like. This was done by identifying examples of both successful and unsuccessful care from current practice. The outcomes of this event are being used to inform the work of the ‘Houses.’ It is hoped the event can take place on a bi-annual basis, to review progress and give feedback on the developments to young people, practitioners, and other stakeholders.

The work programme is supported by two care experienced young people who are employed as CiCC development workers by PFL. These workers support the other young people, for instance by preparing briefing sheets for the steering group chairs to explain the role and remit. They also act as advocates for the work, attending cross-sector meetings to present the priorities of the Pan London CiCC and gather support.

Key messages

A strength of this work is the cross-sector approach that puts young people’s voice and experience at the heart of both policy making and practice. There is an ambition to have collective parenting responsibilities that go beyond councils and bring in cross-sector coalitions to develop a more enhanced offer. The cross-sector approach can take place because the policy themes and the decision makers involved in the ‘Houses’ go beyond just children's social care.

Partnership working across multiple organisations and multiple sectors and other bodies presents a range of opportunities and challenges. It has been important that everyone involved, including young people, acknowledge and understand the work is developmental and will achieve change gradually. As part of this, young people have needed support to understand that work will not flow smoothly to achieve the initiatives goals. This complex cross authority and cross-sectoral youth involvement is made possible by the ALDCS (via the City of London) collectively commissioning an external infrastructure body with expertise in both policy and youth involvement.

The employment of care-experienced young people as CiCC development workers, models some of the practice the Care Leavers Offer is seeking to implement by providing high quality employment opportunities for care leavers. Ensuring the young people in the CiCC development worker roles are prepared and supported is vital, and this requires support from PYL staff.

A final important piece of learning from the project is that the young people, especially those with care experience can have complex lives. Within the work, it has been important to recognise that young people may often need to prioritise other aspects of their lives over their participation in policy initiatives. Effective involvement requires that the young people have effective access to support for the different challenges in their lives and that multiple routes for engagement are programmed into the work.

Further information

Local council:  London Borough Councils and City of London Corporation

Type of council: London Borough Councils

Political control: Varies by Council

Target group: 14 to 25-year-old care leavers

Area of policy making: Pan London Care Leavers Offer

Further details: Pan London Children in Care Council webpage

Contact: Sharon Long, Director, Partnership for Young London, Sharon.long@cityoflondon.gov.uk