A message from our CEO January 2021

Posted 29th January 2021

When I last wrote in July, I was ever hopeful that over the intervening six months we would have moved on from lockdown and would now be emerging into what people commonly refer to as the ‘new normal’. Clearly, we remain in a similar situation albeit with the optimism provided by vaccination, but I suggest that we should resist the language of ‘new normal’. The framing of ‘new normal’ is at one level inviting as it helps to shape and reinforce our understanding of the world, and the ways in which we choose to approach it, but it equally serves to sanitise the current challenges and does not allow us to deal with the issues that people face. Moreover, it glosses over the very real issues faced by our care leaver communities and suggests that the disadvantages that they face should be accepted.    

Care leavers have been described as one of the most invisible vulnerable groups in society and many experience poor outcomes. Lockdown arrangements and digital poverty have impacted on them significantly. Whilst the experience of isolation and disconnection for the general population may have provided an insight into a part of the lived experience of many care leavers, it has not materially changed their lives for the better. If we are to ever embrace the language of ‘new normal’ it is because we have contributed to changing the way that care leavers are supported so that they don’t experience disadvantage and have the same opportunities as everyone else to live independent and fulfilling lives.

As a Charity we have worked hard over the last six months to develop new ways of working, improve what we do and continued to challenge ourselves to add value to the lives of young people in our HP community. We have added to our team with the excellent appointment of Luke Fox to the Business Administration Apprenticeship role. We have continued to support the CLNM Digital Poverty campaign, developed a bid submission to the Energy Redress Trust to address issues of fuel poverty and developed our House Project Programme so that it provides a more pedagogical approach to the ways of working with young people.

We have continued to work virtually and in recognising the impact of working during this pandemic we have provided Clinical Psychologist time to both Charity staff and Local House Project staff. This is to better understand the human responses to this change process so that we can understand and support each other. Additionally, the Psychologists have provided inputs to Local House Project staff on trauma informed practice.

Whilst lockdown has impacted on how services are delivered, young people’s lives have not been put on hold and the fantastic work by staff in the projects has meant that our House Project Community has continued to grow. Three House Projects in Scotland are now up and running bringing the total number to 11 and the number of young people in our community is 216 with 138 young people living independently.  

We were delighted with the Independent Evaluation by York University which was published in November 2020. It reported positively on the expertise of the charity and the membership approach to working with local authorities, with particular reference to the value of a framework rather than a model approach, that supported creativity and freedom to drive innovation whilst having the flexibility to meet local circumstances. It recognised both the centrality of relationships with young people, peers, workers, communities and the NHP and the strength in relationship-based and psychologically informed approaches which were seen as critical to project effectiveness. Whilst our groupwork approach is outcome focused with young people and co-production at the heart of what we do the evaluation also recognised that this way of working also saved monies for LAs.  

The evaluation highlighted the improved outcomes for young people and these findings were picked up by CYPNow who published a feature article in December. Whilst there are naturally a raft of performance indicators associated with our work one of the more difficult outcomes to quantify has been the sense of belonging and of being ‘connected’ which has been significant to all young people. Leaving care is ‘scary’ and young people have really valued the shared experience of preparing for independence. They describe their peer community as their “House Project family” and this connection naturally builds support systems and self-confidence. To explore this further and consider the impact of our practice framework, which is underpinned by trauma informed approaches, we are currently starting on a new evaluation with Psychologists from Cambridge University who will report later in the year.

Whilst for many the New Year Celebrations were more muted this year we were delighted to rejoice in the launch of our new website which brought us up to date with the CLNM website that was launched last July. We have added more films to our NHP YouTube Channel and whilst many of you have worked your way through ‘seasons’ of various programmes on Netflix, I might suggest that your box office viewing should include the NHP ‘season’ which currently amounts to 41 films (albeit short ones)! Happy viewing. 

Returning to the language of ‘normal’ I very much welcome the recent announcement that the Care Review is to commence. In addition to being able to contribute learning from our way of working it provides the opportunity to develop an improved care system that provides for care leavers and takes away the disadvantages that they currently experience. That is the only ‘new normal’ that we should accept.

Hoping that you all stay safe and well.

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