A message from our CEO January 2023
Posted 20th January 2023
Since my last blog in July, CLNM have hosted their Annual Conference in October and with a focus of Celebrating Success this event undoubtedly delivered on this agenda. Designed and hosted by young people it was an event that demonstrated that, with the right support, care leavers can achieve and are incredible. Whilst we are rightly proud of all that they do, this was reinforced by stakeholders and partners who took time to write ‘the quantum of positive benefit is massive’ and ‘you are quite literally transforming the lives and life chances of hundreds of young people’.
The concept of success can be subjective and whilst we have performance indicators that talk to this I have reflected on the triangulation of evidence from external sources that supports this assertion of success. Independent Evaluations by Staf (Scotland Through and Aftercare Forum) and Cambridge University looked at different aspects of our work but both found that the House Project approach is making a difference to young people and enables them to succeed. The ongoing EXIT evaluation led by Warwick Business School echoes these findings and the latter two evaluation partners want to continue to work with NHP as they want to capture what is working and through academic papers and co-delivered workshops, share this with the sector. The Cambridge Evaluation focused on qualitive change and ‘extraordinary moments’ that recognise individual successes that would not generally feature in awards or performance indicators and hence for all the external evaluation findings, ‘success’ determined by young people is the greatest measure. We are not complacent about what we do, and success in whatever form it takes is derived from providing a cogent evidence based framework and investing in what works. In the Peer Evaluation (2021) young people reported that their staff provided the greatest contribution to their emotional wellbeing and their success within House Projects. In recognition of this we are enhancing our support to LHPs by enhancing the training offer in social pedagogy and introducing a certificated House Project Social Pedagogy Award for staff. We see this as a way of skilling up both staff and young people to drive individual and organisational success.
Our work has been recognised in the three LHPs who have been inspected by Ofsted with comments in the reports of ‘impressive work’ in ‘successful project’ that ‘prepares people practically and emotionally’. External validation also comes via winning the UK Housing Award for Homelessness which recognised the holistic approach to supporting people with care experience to live successfully in their communities. We would say that our Aspirational Awards in which young people have been able to follow their dreams, start their own business or develop contributions to their community has been successful but as significantly the experience, growth and increase in confidence of young people involved in administering the awards may have been the greatest success.
The Independent Review of Children’s Social Care and DfE’s response to it alongside the Ofsted’s changing regulatory framework for care leavers focuses on driving practice so that care leavers can succeed. Key ingredients of both approaches are the need for greater support, a focus on relationships, engagement in Education, Employment or Training, improved health and a reduction in homelessness. These come as no surprise to those that work in the sector and more importantly speaks to the ambitions of young people from CLNM. Our psychologically informed practice framework and associated resources to support the approach provides the infrastructure for LHPs to work with young people and the psychological inputs and trauma informed approach allows this to be tailored to both the needs of young people and manage the systems in which services are delivered. We welcome changes to the sector and NHP is ideally situated to deliver against the ‘missions’ that will feature heavily in the new approaches.
Success is often associated with an event at a particular time but as House Project graduates can access support from their LHP for as long as they want, our view of success goes beyond the AQA certification process and the transition out of care and moreover reflects their achievements as adults within the community. Whilst the House Project approach cannot be directly accountable for ongoing successes the foundation that it provides and the communities of support that it develops undoubtedly contributes to living a more connected and fulfilling life.
Returning to the Cambridge University Evaluation it is worth reiterating that success is more than ‘awards’ and achievements in service driven performance indicators and must be reflected in the progress that individuals make which might be unnoticed by many but are significant to the young person... The myriad of dynamic micro, yet extraordinary moments …ultimately lead young people to develop a sense of belonging and sense of feeling competent and autonomous. These in turn are essential for broader outcomes of maintaining stable accommodation, improved physical and mental health, education training and employment, and relational stability. Small successes can be huge and should be celebrated.