Care Leaver Training Flat
published on 17 June 2021
It is hard to believe we started to look at having a training flat for our young people early in 2019.
Listening to what our care leavers were saying to us, it was clear there was a real need to give them the opportunity to experience the difficulties of living on their own. But to do this within a safe and a supported environment.
Talking to care leavers who had recently moved into their own tenancies, one young person told me she felt we should be helping them to prepare at an earlier age and give more time to get ready for such a big change. Especially because in their lives they do not always have others for support. Another two young people told me of their first night they moved into their supported accommodation and how the loneliness really hit them.
We decided on a two week stay to be able to give the range of support sessions and to also allow time for the young person to experience what is like to be on their own. Our colleagues in Commissioning helped in the accommodation search and support for the work the young people would be completing whilst in the flat.
I had the fun task of developing the programme of activities for young people to complete. I needed to allow some flexibility as each young person would be at a different stage in their independence experience. I wanted to cover the most common areas young people asked for help. For example, budgeting and meal planning but also the things that go unsaid like emotional resilience and self-esteem.
My personal favourite part of the programme is the social event where the young person invites their foster carer and social worker at the end of their stay and cooks a meal for them.
In February 2020 we were all set to go, we had our property, our programme of activities and our young people all lined up for the first 6 months. Most were from foster care or residential homes and some were about to go to university too. We were so excited at the variety of young people we could support by using the training flat.
Then on the 23rd March 2020 the country went into lockdown and we had to suspend the programme.
As the year progressed and restrictions began to lift, we looked at how we could move forward. Our first cohort of young people had moved on. By removing one of the days from the two weeks for cleaning in between stays, adding in temperature checks and testing, we felt we could make a start. We had 4 young people happy to trial staying in the flat with the changes in place to protect them in line with Government Guidance.
Our first young person came from a foster carer and he felt keen to move to his own home.
We had a meeting before hand to introduce him to his support worker and talk through how he would arrive, what to bring, emergency contacts etc. It also gave him the opportunity to ask any questions.
His stay started on a Monday with a discussion about the 10 sessions to be completed and what he wanted to gain from his time in the training flat. On his session free days, he made arrangements to meet a friend for a meal and he made the journey to town and back by himself. For his social session he cooked breakfast for Tracy his support worker which went down very well.
He loved his time in the flat and he really enjoyed the sessions. He even completed the DIY session! We met up after he had returned to gain his feedback and he expressed the following about his time in the training flat;
“I learnt how to be independent, learning new things in a safe way’
“I have stayed in the training flat for 2 weeks and I have improved in so many different areas of living independently for example cooking/washing clothes carefully and safely. I have painted a feature wall in the property and I am improving my DIY skills”
“I enjoyed my two weeks here in the flat I had so much support from KD she helped me with everything with what I asked. I have learnt how to cook different foods and how to sort my clothes out by looking at the label. I’ve really enjoyed my time here and would like to continue staying like this. I never the thought the time would go by this quick, it’s flown by.
We now have had thirteen young people complete the Training Flat Programme with our fourteenth just starting. We have had lots of positive feedback from all of our young people and they have each taken something away from the experience.
Tracy our support worker shared her thoughts with me on what it is like for her working with our young people in the training flat
‘I love the involvement in the project as each young person comes with different ways of learning and levels of knowledge and finding ways to learn to suit each individual. The best part is watching young people realise what skills they already have and learning new ones that they say will help them with independent living.’
For me it has been a pleasure to give our young people the opportunity to experience living on their own as they prepare for the next step into independent living and to continue to look for ways to improve the service we offer our young people.
Thank you to Cheryl and Coventry City Council for providing this blog. If you want to download the Training Flat workbook so you can copy the idea for your area head over to the resources section - Go here