NCLW History






 
2002 from Care to Where?
National Care Leavers’ Day made a symbolic start in both England and Wales. In London, well-wishers watched Goldie release 10,000 balloons over Parliament. Each balloon carried a tiny packet of poppy seeds with an invitation to lucky finders to plant and nurture the seeds which had been sent out into the world with little idea where they might end up!

At the same time a parallel event was taking place at the Welsh Assembly, addressed by Minister Jane Hutt to launch National Care Leavers’ Day in Wales and listen to the views of care leavers from Cardiff and surrounding areas regarding the issues which they face.
After the Assembly event, supporters went on the National Botanic Gardens of Wales where a rare species of Rowan Tree was planted and dedicated to Care Leavers.



2003 “Barriers to Work” looked at the problems around benefits, stigma and delayed opportunities for education which affect the ability of care leavers to get started in the careers which interest them.
A conference held in Coventry brought practitioners and care leavers from across the UK to share good practice, and hear from speakers about what changes couldbe hoped for through forthcoming legislation. Conference attendees also heard from welfare rights expert Neil Bateman, and had the opportunity to feed into theTreasury consultation on financial support for 16 – 19 year olds.
Other events during the week included a play by John Turley commissioned for the week entitled ‘Careless Love’ which was premiered at the Tricycle Theatre in London and a star studded event at the ICA.



In 2004 ‘Facing a Brick Wall’ drew attention to the difficulties faced by care leavers in securing and maintaining suitable accommodation. Issues addressed included poor standards of housing for young single people, rogue landlords, the shortage of suitable social and supported housing and the ease with which first time tenants could be evicted from tenancies, often through no fault of their own.
Minister Keith Hill, addressed an audience of leaving care and housing professionals at a conference in London. The Minister flagged up improvements that had already been made for care leavers by the 2000 Leaving Care Act andalso changes to the Homelessness legislation in 2002, which made Care Leavers a priority category. He told the conference audience that he previously had little knowledge of care leavers as a specific vulnerable group – and that as it was such a small number of vulnerable adults the problem should be easy to solve.



In 2005 ‘Leaving Care' - Milestone or Millstone?’ Looked at the ‘rite of passage’ that care leaving should or could be – a major life transition and a period holding potential for excitement, adventure and opportunity. However the reality for many care leavers is so different and the week addressed abroad range of issues around mental health and wellbeing, focussing on the importance of good relationships to help young people make successful transitions and deal with difficult ones.
NCLW supporters participated in Firewalks in London and Wales to highlight the week, and a number of events were organised in London by leading charities. Barnardo’s, with A National Voice, hosted a conference which looked at theChildren (Leaving Care) Act ‘Five Years on’ and asked whether enough had been done. This was followed I the evening by an encore of the ‘Refuse Collection’ fashion show produced by A National Voice as part of their ‘This is not a Suitcase’campaign, aiming to end the use of bin bags for the moving of young people’s possessions when leaving care, or moving homes whilst being looked after. Voice for the Child in Care led a star studded event where the great and the good gathered to listen to presentations by care leavers as part of the launch for the‘Alliance for Child Centred Care’.
Invited guests also had a preview of the ‘Transitions’ report from the Social Exclusion Unit. Minister Phil Woolas, a few weeks before the release of the report,which would look at difficulties facing all excluded 18 – 25 year olds, including care leavers, pledged his support for National Care Leavers’ Week.



In 2006 Futures
National Care Leavers’ Week in 2006 was a vibrant burst of activity with coalition partners creating a range of events for young people and professionals. The underpinning message of the week was about achievement and opportunity, with considerable optimism in the air from the very recently published proposals from Government for the future of the care system. However there were still plenty ofopportunities to highlight the unacceptable side of leaving care services and the continuing shortfalls of a system which continues to expect too much of children too soon, with insufficient support.
The Refuse Collection had its third and most spectacular outing yet in the main Tate Gallery as part of an evening of performance organised by A National Voice with Barnardo’s, The Prince’s Trust, SCIE, NLCAS and The Bryn Melyn GroupFoundation under the banner ‘FUTURES’. The evening was a real opportunity for young people from care to get across messages about positive achievements forcare leavers as well as continuing to highlight the bin bag issue and encourage more authorities to sign up to the no bin-bag charter. The event featured anumber of celebrity guests dressed in their amazing plastic outfits.
More activities for young people were organised at Sadler’s Wells by VOICE withcircus skills, art and drama activities and further contributions from care leaversport, music and fashion writer, Paolo Hewitt. The pièce de resistance was a ‘BigFriendly Giant’ created out of scrap items symbolising the importance ofcontinuing and meaningful adult relationships for children from care.
The week continued with a major conference held in London which was organisedfor NCLW by Young People Now and featured Minister Beverly Hughes asK eynote Speaker. A survey by Young People Now indicated that among leaving care professionals, 35% believed young people have very little choice in when theleave care, 81% felt that there had been insufficient resources to fully deliver onthe aspirations of the 2000 Leaving Care Act and 87% indicated that thee wasinsufficient ‘suitable accommodation’ in there area to meet the needs of careleavers. 72% however felt the recently unveiled proposals in the Green Paper
‘Care Matters’ would bring improvements for care leavers in coming years.



2007 The Difference
What Makes The Difference, a European funded project helping toimprove outcomes for young people in and leaving care was in its second year in 2007 and was the centrepiece for NCLW in 2007.
The project had worked with over 90 local authorities and almost 1,000 young peopleacross England, focussing on four main themes: preparation and planning; education and training; work experience and employment and empowerment and service user involvement.
As well as drawing together examples of good practice and creating tools to help disseminate successful activities, a main aim of the project was to challenge and influence local practice and national policy. WMTD had worked closely with both local authorities and central Government,contributing to the development of the Care Matters proposals which were the basis for further legislation in 2008.
John Hill, National Project manager for WMTDwas positive about whatcould be achieved through new legislation:
“Time will tell whether Care Matters will make a difference. Personally Ithink it was time for a major re-think about ‘care’ and what care means toyoung people on the ground. I think in general that we have forgotten tofocus national policy development and local services on the needs of young people. CareMatters can re-focus our attention to achieve that for the nextfew years. I believe that young people haven’t really ever been consideredas real partners in developing local services and as such I really like theconcept of Children in Care Councils and particularly the Pledge. If localauthorities really value these proposals and implement them properly they can make a big difference to local services – which is what young peoplewere asking for.
At a local level more resources for education support, extended placementspost 18, more supported accommodation and better regulation before leaving care are all valuable gains. I also think that virtual head teachers could be a good thing. Children in Care services need an advocate who understands the education world to help them get better services for young people in and from care.”                                                                  >>
NCLW magazine 2007


2008 Every Care Leaver Matters
Children and young people in care told us that the things that can make a real difference to their feelings of self-worth and self-esteem are not necessarily those that can be legislated for – they are things like having photographs, someone attending sports day, parents evening or out of school activities. These measures cost very little, but require workers and professionals to put the same value on them as young people do. Care Matters aimed, in the words of Government ‘transform the lives of children in care’.
While the intention behind this was commended by NCLW partners, it was clear there were significant gaps in the new legislation.
Neglected areas and omissions related to important issues which could also make a real difference to children’s lives.The acknowledgement that children in careneed a ‘champion’ and advocate was welcomed, but the differences between the role of social worker as lead professional, an independent visitor and anindependent advocate need to be much more clearly defined.
Yet again, it was necessary to emphasize the message that the transition to adulthood for young people leaving care is very different to that of most young people and notwithstanding the provisions of the Children (Leaving Care) Act 2000,the current system for supporting young people leaving the care system is still lackingthe appropriate and necessary support to enable them to make the transition toindependent adult life. The age at which they leave care and lack of ongoing ands ustained support does not promote the wellbeing of many of these young people and has implications for their longer term wellbeing.
This should be contrasted with the experiences of most young people who do not ‘leave’ home as a single act – the normal transition is graduated and characterised by frequent returns to the family home and continuing support from parents/carers, with young people generally not living independently until aged 24or later. We wanted to see a different approach taken to supporting young people leaving care – one which demonstrates a commitment to promoting their well-being in both the short and longer term.
While the current Children and Young Persons Bill extended entitlement to support for some young people leaving care, it still did didoes not provide long termsupport networks for many young people beyond the age of 18; it will not improvethe transition between children’s and adult services and does not change theexpectation that mainstream homelessness supported accommodation provides the right levels and types of support for young people leaving care, as distinct from other young people in need of accommodation.
                                       
                                                                                         >>NCLW magazine 2008


2009 Stand and Deliver
National Care Leavers’ Week 2009 recognisesthat, for better or worse, and we hope in part influenced by the efforts of all those involved inCare Leavers’ Week over the past seven years, wenow have the best that we are going get for ageneration in terms of legislation to improve the lotof children leaving our public care system.
The ball is now firmly in the court of localauthorities and local services to deliver the best they can within the constraints of the resourcesavailable to them by pushing the boundaries of thelegislative structures that have been laid down.
In a year when National Care Leavers’ Week focuses firmly on delivery (with the theme of ‘Standand Deliver!’), good practice in local authoritiesand projects across the country, and the positive achievements of care leavers, are at the centre oflocal and national events and media activity.
The National Care Leavers’ Week magazine for 2009 featured personal stories from care leavers across three decades who have followed their dreams through personal determination.
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                                                                                                 >>NCLW magazine 2009

2010 Keep Dreaming
In his question and answer session with careleavers, filmed for National Care Leavers’Week, children’s minister Tim Loughton talked openly about the need for everydepartment, including his own, to fight for thebudgets they needed and justify every penny thatwas spent. The sector was holding its breath untilthe full details of the forthcoming spending review were announced, and services had alreadybeen axed across the country inanticipation ofwhat was to come.
In addition to full-time study and working to gethis musical career off the ground, care leaver musician, actor and songwriter  Kyle Simmons aka ‘KJ’ had been working directly with children who are still incare, hoping to influence them to stay on the straight and narrow. Kyle saw many of his goodfriends derailed and lost to drugs or crime as hegrew up and believed younger looked-after childrenneed strong role models that they can relateto to counter the stereotypes and navigate the pitfallsof growing up as a child separated from family. Kyle’s song ‘Keep Dreaming’ was the anthem for the week and featured at the CYPNow Awards ceremony which included a section for care leaving professionals.
Also a feature of the week was a roundtable discussion filmed for NCLW with new Children’s Minster Tim Loughton.  No other public service attempts to replace such a unique bond as that which binds a parent andchild together with a set of administrative arrangements that will impact on that individual for the rest of their life. Growing up shapes whowe are and growing up in care can be a sourceof immense warmth, opportunity and respite, orof anxiety, turbulence and distress. “That unique relationship is something the sector expects Loughton to fight for. Improving the experienceof being a child in care or a care leaver is not all about money, but funding cuts will influence decision-making, potentially reducing still further thelife chances and opportunities for care leavers.
National Care Leavers’ Week Magazine 2010 focused on dreams and aspirations, on supporting and enabling care leavers to be all that they want to be, and believing in them when they have lost belief in themselves. The 2010National Care Leavers’Week magazine was full of personal stories spanning generations of care leavers. The themes that unite them are a search for identity and belonging, aspiration to achieve and determination to give back something to others.

                                                                                                 >>NCLW magazine 2010

2011 A Day in My Shoes
Care leavers often find themselves dealing with a great number of professionals and services as they negotiate the minefield that is leaving care. Many are unaware of the very significant impact they can have on the pathway subsequently followed as care leavers negotiate the multiple barriers that need to be overcome on the journey towards adult life. Using live text diaries, National Care Leavers’ Week and Children and Young People Now give a unique insight into the hazards, and the heartaches of the journey as well as the successes and the sources of support that make a difference along the way.      
National Care Leavers’ Week 2011 ‘A Day in My Shoes’ invited all professionals and services who come into contact with care leavers to take time to reflect on the lives that care leavers live and the barriers they have to overcome. As all of our public services continue to face significant financial cuts, every housing support worker, community mental health worker, prison officer, university tutor, jobcentre advisor, constituency MP and personal advisor can have a more positive impact on the lives of the young care leavers who come their way just by taking a moment to ask themselves what must it be like to walk a day in the shoes of a care leaver. There is no cost to intelligent compassion.    
Events took place throughout the UK and young care leavers gave unique insights into their experiences through different media. ‘Made in Care’ – a short film made by Voice and The Care leavers Association will be screened at venues throughout the week and personal stories will be revealed through our text project undertaken in partnership Children and Young People Now.   
Although it was not possible to have the event during the week – this eventually took place in January 2012 - we arranged for Minister Tim Loughton to spend a day visiting care leavers at a service in Lancashire to learn more about their day to day lives and difficulties
Care leavers often find themselves dealing with a great number of professionals and services as they negotiate the minefield that is leaving care. Many are unaware of the very significant impact they can have on the pathway subsequently followed as care leavers negotiate the multiple barriers that need to be overcome on the journey towards adult life. Our NCLW Twitter account was opened in NCLW 2010 and you have been tweeting to us ever since!

                                                                                                 >>NCLW magazine 2011

2012 Opening doors
National Care Leavers' Week 2012 – Opening Doors – had as its central theme the many different ways in which we can all, as individuals, practitioners, policy makers or substitute parents, ensure opportunities are made freely available to care leavers in every area of their lives as they progress on their journeys through young adulthood. Too often care leavers find themselves navigating dark corridors where there seem to be no chinks of light, and having doors shut behind them as their time being 'looked after' recedes into the distance as well as closed in their faces as they try to navigate their onward journeys.
Following on from the April launch of the ACCESS ALL AREAS Campaign, representatives of NCAS and The Care Leavers’ Foundation were invited by Children’s Minster Tim Loughton to present to the Youth Action Group where we had the opportunity to outline the issues to other Ministers. Progress on ACCESS ALL AREAS will be followed up during National Care Leavers’ Week.
The report Access All Areas, was launched at a roundtable meeting on 16 April involving officials from four Government Departments, calls for a more joined up approach from Government to the needs of care leavers into their twenties. The initiative, led by The Care Leavers' Foundation with The Prince's Trust, National Care Advisory Service and A National Voice has the support of over thirty organisations.
Following a consultation with care leavers in August Children’s Minister Edward Timpson launched the Charter for Care Leavers during National Care Leavers’ Week. It set out Government promises and aspirations for care leavers and was launched at a reception organised and hosted by Barnardo’s with special guests.


2013 The First Decade
As well as marking ten years of National Care Leavers’ Week, NCLW 2013, ‘The First Decade’ highlighted the lack of attention paid to the developmental needs of care leavers, and the fact that many of them spend the first ten years of their adult life recovering from trauma and laying down the foundations for their adult future. Many, in other words both need and deserve the kinds of support and interest applied to younger care leavers for the first decade after leaving care and should be given many chances to find their feet in education, tenancies, and the workplace before they are written off as statistics.
2013 was also a landmark year for care leavers in policy terms and the Children’s Minister Edward Timpson chose the National Care Leavers’ Week conference to launch the Government’s Care Leavers’ Strategy, a clear demonstration of the beginning of all Government Departments embracing their shared responsibility towards care leavers, and acknowledging the need to ensure policy in all areas does not create unnecessary barriers to progression and success. The Government Strategy was a clear response to the previous year’s Access All Areas campaign.  Edward Timpson also announced an amendment to the Transitions Guidance which formalised the recommendation that £2,000 should be paid as a minimum setting up home grant.
By now a regular feature of NCLW, the annual partnership between the Care Leavers’ Foundation and the Fifteen Foundation teaching a group of interested care leavers high quality and nutritious cooking on a low budget, took place under the banner ‘Making a Meal of It’ and former alumni of this event Mattie Wilson, now working at one of Jamie Oliver’s restaurant’s, gave an inspirational speech to close the National conference run by the Prince’s Trust in partnership with The Care Leavers’ Foundation. Barnardo’s put on a reception considering the implications and achievements of the Charter for Care Leavers ‘one year on’ and SCIE, with the British Library, announced its aural history project, capturing care leavers’ stories in perpetuity, as part of a massive national archive being built by the British Library.     
Around the UK the usual variety of inspiring events took place, Henrietta Bond launched her latest book at Todmorden Library, the third in a trilogy of care leaver teen novellas, Scotland’s ‘Going Forward’ events also focussed on the journeys into adulthood over the first decade of a care leaver’s adult life and attention was focussed on the New Belongings project, launched earlier in the year and working with ten local authorities across England improve their services by listening to the experiences of their own care leavers and using care leaver consultants to advise them on how to develop their New Belongings approach.  Many local authorities ran their now well established Care Leaver Awards ceremonies during the week, including an event in Manchester coordinated by the Care Leavers’ Association.
 
 
2014 - New Belongings
National Care Leavers’ Week 2014 took as its theme ‘New Belongings’. The New Belongings project, an intervention conceived and largely delivered by Care Leavers, whose regular meetings with Children’s Ministers had previously given rise to the Charter for Care Leavers and the Access all Areas campaign. The New Belongings concept is about engaging local communities, addressing the accountability of Corporate Parents and bringing creativity, imagination and passion into the delivery of local service for care leavers.  A two day dissemination event in Manchester for the ten participant authorities, and an audience of 120 interested delegates who wanted to learn from the achievements of participants, was addressed by care leavers, Senior Officers from the local authorities and the Children’s Minister Edward Timpson. An independent evaluation report was also launched leaving no doubt as to the impact of the methodology, and the Minister hinted at the possibility of a further round of funding to extend the reach of this innovative work. In Leeds, the Annual NCLW lecture was introduced by Care Leaver and much loved poet and broadcaster Lemn Sissay, who introduced Belinda Buff, a care leaver PhD student who delivered the lecture on the theme of research into education and transitions.
The Sizzling Savours event held in Islington, London, offered an opportunity for fifteen care leavers to experience cooking in a top class training kitchen while saving money using fresh food at Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen restaurant and the annual conference, once again hosted by the Prince’s Trust explored innovation and good practice in leaving care services, as well as holding Government to account one year after the launch of the cross Government strategy on care leavers in 2013.
Cardiff and Cumbria held consultation and good practice events exploring the challenges of getting transitions right and ensuring that good evidence based practice, as well as care leaver voices, inform Government policy.  The literary event this year was the launch of Paolo Hewitt’s long awaited sequel to The Looked after Kid. Entitled ‘But we all Shine on - The Remarkable Orphans of Burbank Children’s Home’, the book explored the life journeys of four of Hewitt’s compatriots after they each left the place which had been home for them in the 1970’s.          
        
2015 - Do You Mind?
Revisiting the topic of mental health and wellbeing, National Care Leavers’ Week 2015 featured a range of events focussing on policy, experiential expertise and sharing of good practice.  Physical god health, nutrition and mental wellbeing are irrevocably linked, and the annual visit by a group of aspiring care leaver chefs to Jamie Oliver’s famous Training kitchens at Fifteen in London took place under the title Care to Cook?, with an action packed day learning how to cook fabulous food for farthings.
The Prince’s Trust highlighted good practice examples in a half day seminar for professionals and care leavers addressed by the Minister for Children who praised the achievements of the New Belongings project and pledged the continuation and rejuvenation of the Government’s Care Leavers’ Strategy.
The young people’s care leavers’ benchmarking forum met during NCLW, a well-established group and a further example of the importance of listening to the voice of young care leavers in making decisions about how best to support them, and on the same theme, the Peer Outreach Team at Greater London Council’s City Hall ran a ‘conference with performance and participation’ which challenged those designing or delivering services to look at the impact of what they were doing on care leavers. All of these different discussion forums and activities brought out the theme of emotional health and wellbeing and how we ignore this at our peril whether considering early transitions from care, or the journeys followed by care leavers in the subsequent years of their late adolescence and young adulthood.
Despite the cross Government Strategy, problems within the housing and welfare services persist which are often punitive and perverse in many of the decisions reached which leave care leavers homeless, or in fear of perusing work or education for fear of poverty and eviction.   A small group of care leavers discussed these issues at a roundtable event with Government officials and Children’s Commissioner for England Anne Longfield, while in Wales Voices from Care Cymru challenged politicians to outline their vision for the future of care leavers in Wales at an event at the Senedd.
Numerous events took place around the country, including this year’s book launch, with Hackney Child author Jenny Molloy introducing her new book ‘Neglected’ at Huddersfield University. This book is an inspiring mix of memoir, biography and documentary, shining a light on the devastating impact of alcohol, addiction and attachment disorder on young children, and the often repetitive patterns of abuse which are cemented. As such it provided the perfect encapsulation of the 2015 theme of mental health and its crucial importance for care leavers.


 
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