Four care experienced young people who took part in the Beyond Lockdown research, funded by NIHR Applied Research Collaboration Kent, Surrey and Sussex (ARC KSS), have helped to promote the work at two key national events.

The Beyond Lockdown Research Team, which included a partnership between University of Sussex and Creative Research Collective, undertook the national research to focus on what support care leavers need as lockdown eases.

As part of the project, care leavers from Kent and East Sussex co-produced a series of key messages and resources for both care leavers and those services working with care leavers. And as well as creating the toolkit, they have been instrumental in KSS AHSN’s work in implementing the resources to key audiences across England by presenting the project at various events.

The first event saw them speak at the Young Person’s Benchmarking Forum which is part of the National Leaving Care Benchmarking Forum (NLCBF), and is attended by more than 100 Local Authorities.

Run by the charity Catch 22 and funded through membership fees from local authorities, the NLCBF aims to stimulate and disseminate best practice on a national scale to improve outcomes for the nation’s care leavers. At the heart of the forum is the Young Person’s Benchmarking Forum (YPBF), with the voice of care leavers shaping the direction of the forum and integral to its events and work.

The second event was aimed at frontline leaving care workers including Social Workers, Personal Advisers, Participation Workers and care experienced individuals.

The overall theme for this event was supporting young people in education, employment and training. The care leavers ran a workshop for more than 85 people, which resulted in a number of practical suggestions to help improve the mental health and wellbeing as lockdown ends.

These ideas included setting up mental health drop-in sessions near schools, colleges and universities, running WhatsApp video calls and outdoor activities, and focusing on those who are sometimes forgotten – especially LGBTQ care leavers.

Commenting on the sessions Luwam, one of the Kent 18+ Care Leaver Apprentices who spoke at the events, said:

“Being a care leaver during the pandemic, I personally found it hard with living on my own and not seeing my friends. My PA helped me by coming to see me and going for walks with me, I still do this today to help with my emotional well-being. Speaking to my mentor weekly too also helped and keeping in touch with my foster family over the phone, just having someone to listen to me means so much.

“Being part of the research project, I have been able to share my personal experience during the pandemic and in particular about how this can impact on other Asylum young people, I enjoyed presenting this to other local authorities to help them think about how to support Care Leavers. For me, having our drop in become a virtual one helped me to keep in touch with other Care Leavers, and the games were fun too!”

KSS AHSN has been leading the implementation of the findings and Becca Randell, Starting Well Implementation Lead at KSS AHSN, joined the care leavers as they spoke at both events.

“Kent care leavers have brought amazing levels of professionalism, creativity and insight to this work. Listening to them share the findings of the research and details of the toolkit at these two leading events was truly inspirational, and it’s fantastic to know that this work has been shared so widely and can now support care leavers across England.”

  • Full details of the research findings and a toolkit of resources for those working with care leavers can be found on KSS AHSN’s website