Hannah McCowen, NLCBF Manager, and Ralph Rushworth, Senior Care Experienced Sessional Worker, were recently invited to present at the ‘Shaping Leaving Care’ conference in Berlin. Here’s some reflections from Hannah….
We had a brilliant three days in Berlin and were really pleased to be part of this conference, hosted by ‘Fachstelle Leaving Care’ – a group of academics and members of the care experienced community in Germany who have been campaigning for legislation and better support for young people leaving care.
In 2021, the group secured legislation for young people to be supported up to the age of 21 and where young people need additional support, up to the age of 25. They are now exploring replicating the model of the National Leaving Care Benchmarking Forum to support the development of services and sharing of good practice. It is challenging enough in England where we have 152 local authorities delivering leaving care services – Germany has 600 municipalities. Under the new legislation each one of those has a responsibility to support young people leaving care.
During the conference, Ralph and I had the privilege of facilitating two workshops around a giant poster where we had outlined how NLCBF works and delivering a short session to all the delegates.
For me, the highlights of being part of this trip included:
- Modelling prioritising the voices of young people: This was something we talked about at the conference and we modelled through Ralph, our Senior Sessional worker, bringing his infectious energy and clear messages and challenge to everyone attending the conference.
- Giving examples of how good practice can spread through a Forum like NLCBF: We talked about how the Baby Box Project, set up in Warwickshire by a care experienced parent to encourage positive support for other parents has spread to other local authorities. There was interest in examples like the ‘Always There’ initiative in North Yorkshire who have invited their care experienced young people to contact them after the age of 25, as they need to – reflecting the way a parent would continue to offer support to their adult children.
- Highlighting cross government roles that have made a difference in England: At the conference we highlighted the impact that Mark Riddell’s role has had as the National Implementation Adviser for Care Leavers, working across government departments.
- Communicating the heart and passion within the Forum: I wanted to make sure we were not just talking about the structure of the NLCBF but also communicating the heart and passion and determination to see change, behind what we’re doing. Without that, I’m sure our forum would have little impact. The question at the heart of our Corporate Parenting Principles – would this be good enough for my child? – was a useful way to share this and crossed over any cultural barriers. We all know what we would do for our own children and how far we would go.
- Reflecting on how far we have come in England: While there are a lot of barriers for care experienced young people that still need to be addressed here in England, this visit made me appreciate the steps that have already been taken here: The Leaving Care Act in 2000 legislating for leaving care services up to the age of 21; the further extension of this support to 25 in 2018 and the requirement for each local authority to develop and publish a local offer. Support for care experienced young people in Germany is where we were in 2000 and I hope that by working and learning together this group can use some of the momentum we have and see this support increasing quickly. I hope for us here in England, the introduction of the separate Ofsted judgement on the ‘Experiences and Progress of Care experienced young people’ in January 2023 and the government’s response to the Care Review will be further significant steps in removing barriers and improving the life opportunities for care experienced individuals.
- Visiting the Berlin Wall, Brandenburg Gate & Reichstag: We couldn’t go to Berlin without seeing some of the sights. For me the highlight was visiting the East Side Gallery where a large section of the Berlin Wall is still standing. It’s something I’ve always heard about and it was quite moving to stand on one of the fault lines of history.
We know that the NLCBF model is effective in inspiring change at local authority and government level. Perhaps our work will also inspire change for care experienced young people, around the world.View Young Person's hub