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“What a good parent would do” – showcasing Staying Close

St Christopher’s has hosted an event to raise awareness of our Staying Close project for young people leaving residential care and to share learning with colleagues from across the children’s services sector.

The event was attended by commissioners, donors like LandAid who have supported the project, and representatives from the Department for Education, who have funded the pilot through their Innovation Programme.

To introduce the day a representative from the DfE gave an overview of why Staying Close is important. She explained how leaving care is not an isolated event in a young person’s life, ​but is part of a process as they move towards independence.

Following this, our project manager Amaka gave an overview of St Christopher’s model. Our work uses a social pedagogic approach focused on relationships, with young people ​​​co-producing their support plans in a meaningful way and coming up with practical solutions to help them stay in touch with the people they care about most. She explained how the shared accommodation with floating staff offers a taste of independent living, and how the vital life skills work has developed young people’s confidence so they are ready for the next steps on their journey.

Then, project partners and mental health charity MAC-UK shared a ‘day in the life’ video that they have co-produced with a young person involved in Staying Close. The young person shared how he felt about being in care and performed a rap about his past experiences, which was a really powerful way of showing how the multi-disciplinary support of Staying Close can provide individualised care.​

Next it was time for attendees to immerse themselves in the Staying Close experience. They had all been given case studies on arrival with typical situations that care leavers can find themselves in, and tasked with visiting information stands around the room to find themselves the help they needed. This was a brilliant way of showing professionals in the sector how it actually feels to be leaving care – you can feel isolated, struggle to be heard, and not sure where to turn to for help. It also gave them a chance to learn specifics about the Staying Close project and how it is working to address these issues and improve the journey to independence.

After everyone had time to learn about Staying Close, they were invited to ask our panel questions about the project. There were staff from St Christopher’s, MAC-UK, local authority partner Ealing Council and a young person accessing the service. They answered questions on the financial stability of the project, what young people feel they get out of the experience, and how St Christopher’s has committed to lifelong learning and thriving as part of our organisational strategy​ for the next five years.

One message came across loud and clear for the whole day – Staying Close centres around “doing what a good parent would do”. As corporate parents, we have the responsibility to make sure we are achieving this as much as we can so that the young people in our care can work towards a brighter future.

St Christopher’s Chief Executive Jonathan Whalley ended the day by talking about our mission to make sure every child and young person in our care feels safe, secure and loved. He said: “We are really proud of our Staying Close project and the ways our young people have developed the service into what it is today. Running this pilot has taught us lots of things about what is important to young people – and I cannot emphasise enough how strong relationships are at the heart of everything they want in order to leave care feeling supported.”

“We are passionate about creating brighter futures for all of our children and young people and will be sharing our learning with professionals across the country so that we can truly transform the support and advice that care leavers receive.”

Thank you to everyone who worked on the event to make it a success.

If you would like to learn more about our Staying Close model, please get in touch with us today.