18 Mar 2016

Nearly 200 guests turned out to help make The Children’s Society’s North West Care Leavers Festival a huge success.

The festival at The People’s History Museum in Manchester was run by care leavers for care leavers and the professionals involved in helping them.

Recent care leavers and others who are soon to leave care were among more than 80 young people who attended the event, which was based around the theme Celebrating Health and Happiness to Independence.

They shared their experiences of leaving care with professionals from across the region including representatives from councils, universities and organisations including the Care Leavers Association, Every Child Leaving Care Matters and Spearfish, which engages young people in creative events and workshops.

The young people came up with ideas aimed at improving the support they receive which guests pledged to pursue - including pushing The Children’s Society’s campaign to exempt care leavers under the age of 25 from council tax.

Young people also told how they had benefited from The Children’s Society’s Care to be Different programme, which has been supporting 16-24-year-olds in Oldham, Rochdale, Lancashire and Cheshire East in making the difficult transition to life outside care.

The programme has supported 245 young people, either through one-to-one help from The Children’s Society’s project workers, or by taking part in its group participation events.
Award-winning comedian and care leaver Sophie Willan, from Salford, provided laughs and a friendly, party atmosphere as host for the day.

Sophie was offering care leavers free tickets to her stand-up comedy show premiering at The Lowry in Salford on 10-11 June, as well as the chance to sign up for her published story-telling programme Stories of Care.

There were workshops and activities run by care leavers and professionals as well as food, drink and entertainment, including a quiz, street dancing, an MC workshop and smoothie making.

Lancashire area manager, Jo Hunt, who heads up The Children’s Society’s Care to be Different programme, said: “Many children and young people who have been in care will have faced real instability in their lives and they may need help with a number of issues.

“These issues do not vanish overnight when they leave care and the transition from care to suddenly being independent can be really tough on a number of levels – emotional, practical and financial.

“Listening to care leavers is absolutely vital and this has been a key part of our Care to be Different programme and this festival as we look to help support these young people on their way to bright futures.”

Many care leavers experience poor health, educational and social outcomes after leaving care, including difficulties finding a job. An estimated 60 per cent of children and young people in care in England have emotional and mental health problems.

Care to be Different has offered one-to-one support for the young people with the most complex needs, for instance, around issues like substance misuse and sexual exploitation. Other young people have received coaching and mentoring designed to help them with advice around engaging in education, relationships, lifestyle issues and leaving care. Some have had the chance to boost their job prospects through a work placement in one of The Children’s Society’s charity shops, during which time they work towards a Level 1 Award in Retail Skills.

Funded by a £450,000 Department for Education grant, Care to be Different has also been running in Torbay in Devon.

Media enquiries

For more information or an interview, please call The Children’s Society media team on 020 7841 4422 or email media@childrenssociety.org.uk. For out-of-hours enquiries please call 07810 796 508.

Notes to editor

  • Stories of Care is an extraordinary creative programme run by comedian Sophie Willan giving care leavers aged 16-25 the opportunity to become professional, published authors and illustrators. Working collaboratively with a published author and illustrator, Sophie Willan and her team of fellow care leavers will create a vibrant and exciting children's anthology filled with rich and colourful stories based on their own experiences. The book will premiere at the Children's Book Festival in June 2017.
  • The Children’s Society is a national charity that runs local services, helping children and young people when they are at their most vulnerable, and have nowhere left to turn. We also campaign for changes to laws affecting children and young people, to stop the mistakes of the past being repeated in the future. Our supporters around the country fund our services, volunteer with us, and join our campaigns to show children and young people they are on their side.