What chances do young adult care leavers have in education and work?

April 16, 2014, by Linda Dixon. filed under Uncategorized; No Comments.

When I was at school, aged 17, trying to make decisions about going on to university or leaving and finding work, there was little offered in the way of careers advice or support, and times were much more buoyant then. The only careers advice I can remember was given by an independent agency which required me to undertake a psycho analytical questionnaire to decide which career I would be best suited to. I came out even more dazed and confused and not sure I wanted to take up nursing anyway. I don’t mind admitting that I didn’t find the right kind of work for me until I was 40 and I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one.

Existing support in terms of information, advice and guidance about learning and/or work for young people leaving education has diminished. Massive reductions in the Connexions service – which where it does exist, only supports the most disadvantaged/ NEET young people – has greatly reduced the amount of specialised and tailored support available for young people.  It will be interesting to see how the new adult careers service, also serving young adults, manages this. Finding work becomes even more challenging when the number of jobs suitable for young people has decreased and employers are claiming that young people don’t have the necessary skills they are looking for.

So what chance do young adults leaving care have in making decisions about learning and work?  Many care leavers have other much more pressing issues at 18, such as living arrangements and financial stability. Fear of loneliness, being placed in unsuitable accommodation, a lack of emotional maturity (commonly exacerbated by difficult life experiences and frequent changes in carers and schools) and feeling unable to cope, mean that making decisions about getting into education or work are not always an immediate priority.

For young people leaving care at 18, the support of the local authority as a ‘good enough’ parent is vital to making choices about learning and/or work. This support comes in the form of a Personal Adviser (or 18+ worker) and/or a social worker. The ‘contract’ that says the local authority will provide that support, is known as a Pathway Plan (usually prepared at 16/17). Yet many of the young people we are talking to don’t recognise a Pathway Plan as a ‘contract’ which will legally uphold their rights. Instead, many have told us that they’re not sure they have a copy of their Pathway Plan, they didn’t find it helpful or understandable and that they can’t even remember the conversation about education and work! When asked what could have helped, they often say they needed emotional support more than anything, which wasn’t forthcoming, and that support in terms of education and/or work could have been provided earlier.

Current statutory rulings do and don’t help. A care leaver who takes up and stays in education before they are 21, is entitled to receive support from a Personal Adviser up to the age of 25.  Indeed, if plans for further learning were included in their final Pathway Plan on leaving care, they can return to the local authority for support at a later date, should they decide to take up learning before they are 25.

Whilst this is welcome, take up has been slow as many young people who have recently left care are not aware of this ruling. Additionally, a care leaver who is not in education at 21 will no longer receive the support of a Personal Adviser. Without this support it is likely that their chances of getting into education and/or work will be significantly reduced.  Also, whilst the theory is fairly sound, it doesn’t take into account that many care leavers need the door to be kept open for much longer, to provide them with a more realistic chance to get into learning and/or work, giving them time to settle, both physically and emotionally.

Through our research we will be able to make some recommendations to the government about how this support can be provided more consistently and with the care leaver at the centre of all decisions. If you are a care leaver or a Personal Adviser employed by a local authority, or agency working in partnership with a local authority, and would like to contribute to our research, please contact me at linda.dixon@niace.org.uk

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The challenges of taking on a caring role within an ethnic minority family

April 15, 2014, by Guest Blogger. filed under Uncategorized; No Comments.
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Guest blog from young adult carer, Sarah, as part of NIACE’s WE Care project, which is exploring the support young adult carers require to make successful transitions into learning and work.

I have been looking after my mum and my autistic brother since I was nine years old. I’m from an ethnic minority family so I not only had to care for my brother, but also translate for my mum. There is the pressure within ethnic minority families to take on the caring role without receiving assistance, because ethnic minorities just see it as a family responsibility. What the family needs is what comes first, so it’s really the lack of understanding that you’re a carer or that your circumstances should receive external help because you’re striving to cope with it. It can also be difficult for a family to approach external support agencies and ask for help when they don’t speak English. They might find it more difficult to understand the criteria which need to be met in order to receive support, and when social workers come into the home to assess the situation you do feel like you’re under investigation.

I didn’t realise I was a young carer until I started going to Barnardo’s when I was 15. Because English isn’t my mum’s first language, I didn’t have anyone who could explain my situation to me. I didn’t know what a young carer was so I just saw it as a duty to my family and I didn’t really have any support. I found out about Barnardo’s through my brother’s special needs club which I took him to after school. One of the workers there asked me how old I was and told me there was a group for young carers. The support Barnardo’s gave me was very individualised. As well as attending the group with carers of similar ages I also had individual support, such as homework sessions, a mentor and a personal tutor during my A-levels.

The support from Barnardo’s changed my life. They made me realise that I’m not alone, there are other young carers and I shouldn’t have to deal with this all by myself, because there are services to assist me with the circumstances and challenges that I face. Barnardo’s gave me the time that was taken away from me to think about what I want to achieve and to actually work towards achieving that. They provided answers that I couldn’t get from my family or elsewhere, because my time was taken up by the responsibilities I had. They helped me discover what my interests are, things I wouldn’t have time to think about, because I’d be so concerned about what my brother needed and what my mum had asked me to do.

The support from Barnardo’s helped me to progress onto college and university. They held career days to show carers the different careers they could get into. I didn’t have much of a role model in terms of a successful professional at home as my mum was unwell and my dad wasn’t around. This support gave me space to reflect on my personal achievements as well as providing me with answers to unlock my own understanding of what I wanted to be. I’ve now graduated from university and am working as a teaching assistant at a primary school, supporting pupils who need individual support. Without Barnardo’s I definitely would not have achieved all of the things that I’ve achieved.


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Romani people need equal access to education

April 8, 2014, by Carol Taylor. filed under Uncategorized; No Comments.
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It’s International Roma Day today, celebrating Romani culture and raising awareness of the issues facing Romani people. It’s a day also, to remind us of the persecution of Roma people, especially in parts of Europe. Roma people continue to face wide-ranging discrimination in access to education, employment, housing, and healthcare. In recent years we have also seen a growth in anti-Roma rhetoric both here and abroad, as well as alarming, violence.

Travellers, as they are known in the UK, have been an important part of the British culture since at least the 16th century, and have been persecuted for almost as long. In quite recent times their labour was an integral part of many rural activities, and before that they provided essential links between isolated communities, as well as bringing artefacts from all over the world to villages which rarely saw strangers.

In the UK, Travellers are still the most discriminated group of people, and have probably the worst access to sustained education, and consequently the lowest level of skills. While an immense amount of work has gone into enabling younger children to attend school and to support schools to enrol and support Traveller children, access to further and higher education remains an issue. There is no data available, but anecdotal evidence tells us that perhaps only 5 -10% of young people from a Traveller culture take up any form of further education, Apprenticeships or employment within the mainstream, ‘gorgia’ culture. Even fewer, it would seem, access higher education.

The reasons for this are varied – poor levels of skills, lack of knowledge about what opportunities are available, the prejudices of the mainstream culture and the travelling lifestyle (although the latter is disappearing dramatically, as more Travellers are forced into houses through lack of places to stay). It is also because the Traveller culture may view education differently – being able to shoe a horse or mend a generator at four years old might be seen as more important than some of the skills valued in the mainstream culture.

Engaging young and older adults in learning needs consistent, focused community learning, based around where Travellers live or stay. Groups need to be discreet, at least to begin with, and programmes, like all good community education, need to be based on their needs and interests. Above all we need patience, which means sustained funding.

What we need are good examples of where adults and young people from Traveller cultures, including Roma people from Europe, have been successfully engaged in learning. A great example is one of our 2009 Adult Learners’ Week award winners. Kushti Bok is a group in Dorchester formed by members of the Gypsy and Traveller communities to overcome negative stereotyping and encourage learning. Participants were pleased with the flexible courses that were delivered at times and places which suited their lifestyles, achieving qualifications at Levels 1 to 3, from large goods vehicle driving, hairdressing and beauty therapy, to chainsaw operation, childcare and teaching. Kushti Bok was even invited to design and deliver awareness training to Dorset Police for both new recruits and serving officers.

We also need programmes to support young people leaving school to consider their options, as well as support for their families to consider other options. I’m personally saddened that this culture is being forced to adopt the mainstream culture, but whatever they choose to do, those from a Romani/Traveller background must be able to access the same opportunities as others. Improving their skills will help them to shine a light on their culture, to act as a bridge between the cultures and enable their families to have choices over what path they want to follow.

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Thoughts from a new learner

April 7, 2014, by Carol Taylor. filed under Uncategorized; 1 Comment.

Two weeks ago I started swimming lessons. I can swim, but not with any style or speed so I decided to do something about it. When I was a teenager I nearly drowned on a holiday in Cornwall and had to be rescued by a life guard – I clearly remember my mum standing on the beach screaming that I was going to die. Ever since then I’ve had a fear of putting my face in the water.

As I walked into the swimming baths on the first day I nearly turned tail and ran – there was a whole lane dedicated just to me, with a sign saying ‘Swimming lessons only in this lane’. So no doubt then, why I was there. I assumed everybody else in the whole place – other swimmers, lifeguards, and spectators – were all watching me.

At the end of the first lesson, having floundered about, swallowed buckets of water, utterly failed to be able to breathe and swim, I stood under the shower an abject failure. My legs ached, my arms ached, and I knew I would never get the hang of it. I only went back the next week because I had paid in advance.

But now, three weeks on, I can actually do the crawl – not very stylish I don’t think (pity you are not allowed to film yourself in the Baths, would be such a good way of improving my technique). I’ve been practising and did two lengths without stopping early last Saturday morning. Rang my mum and my daughter to tell them!

As a teacher of kids and adults, for many years, this was a stark reminder to me of how it feels to be a new learner, to be outside one’s comfort zone. It made me realise that everyone who works with adults, or even talks about adult learning, should, every now and then, see what it feels like. Not to go on a course, or learn a new iPad trick, but to actually try something scary.

I remembered the mum coming to a family learning course who had five times got to the school gate until she had the courage to actually come in. I remembered how I just knew, when I was teaching literacy, when people had practised and when they hadn’t – there was no fooling my swimming teacher on this one! I remember adults throwing a book across the room in utter despair, and then three weeks later just getting it. And I remember the absolute delight when something was achieved, and how important it is that the teacher tells you continually how good you are.

I’m an articulate, educated professional – this experience has brought home so starkly what it must feel like to be a new learner who, for example, has literacy issues; or needs to develop new skills for work; or who is about to start an apprenticeship. I imagine being a young person who has been in care, branching out on my own, or an adult who speaks poor English. I thank heaven I have such a focused, caring, experienced and qualified teacher, and just hope all learners have the same positive experience.

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More males needed in the care sector

April 2, 2014, by Guest Blogger. filed under Uncategorized; No Comments.
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Guest blog from young adult carer, Paul, as part of NIACE’s WE Care project, which is exploring the support young adult carers require to make successful transitions into learning and work.

My experiences with learning and work have been very positive in most respects, but there is still a stigma that comes from being a male who enjoys doing care work. Some people don’t understand why you do it and most feel it is something that a woman should do!

In my own experience I think being a carer for my mother for the majority of my life made me want to do a caring role to make people’s lives better. The people I’ve come across in the jobs I’ve had have always really respected the fact I am a male. The majority of the male adults with learning disabilities that I’ve supported preferred that I was a male, as they felt embarrassed when a woman was helping them with personal care. The positives are that you are making a small difference for yourself, but a massive one for other people.

On being a male carer and holding down a full time job, it helps that my employers are very supportive of my caring role and are very flexible to my needs. This really helps as it means I know that if there was a problem with my mum I could go and help and my workplace would be fully supportive.

I am now a care ambassador for the county council – I go to schools, colleges and events and promote the caring role and also being a male carer. This is a great way to getting young men thinking about going into a caring role. I let them know that there is nothing wrong with it and a that lot of people they support will benefit and will really appreciate more males in the care sector.

I can’t recommend care work enough to males who may be thinking about doing it, it’s the best job I have done. I always look forward to working because I know I am helping people and that’s very important to me as an individual and as a carer.

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