This year marks ten years since Drive Forward began working with care-experienced young people in London. Since then, we have worked with over 2000 young people, enabling them to develop the skills, build the networks and gain the knowledge they need to enter a career of their own choice.
The Drive Forward Policy Forum has been going for three years now and come from strength to strength. Personally, I am most excited for the expansion of our National Policy Forum. Though our London group of over 30 care leavers is well established, we set out in 2019 to expand to pastures new. Since then, we have connected with care-experienced young people right across the UK.
At the beginning of the month, I have been up in Manchester working with five members of our National Policy Forum group. Through one-to-ones and group meetings, we have been setting out our mission, values, and aims for the rest of the year.
Saskia, a Manchester policy forum member and student at Manchester Metropolitan University told me:
‘I joined this group to make a difference. I want to campaign for a better system so that future care leavers have better support than I did. This year, I’m hoping we can continue to build a diverse network of care-experienced people right across the country and start to smash the stigma that a lot of the public has about care leavers.’
Whilst the group hopes to develop some flagship campaigns, the members also want to play a key part in improving their own institutions. That’s why members of the group presented to the Greater Manchester Care-Experienced Education Network or ‘CEEN’ for short. GM CEEN is a body of various stakeholders who want to ensure that care leavers receive the best possible support in education. [See our blog for more information]
Representatives from the University of Manchester, Manchester Metropolitan University, the University of Salford and the University of Bolton came together to discuss current challenges and come up with realistic solutions. Zahra, Saskia, Sophie, Simi and Laura used their own experiences as student care leavers to suggest ways in which Greater Manchester HE institutions can provide better and more joined up support. Their asks were wide-ranging: from careers, to financial support and accommodation.
On Wednesday, the team were involved with an exciting project created by Three Circles Fostering called Foster What?. The YouTube channel for children in care aims to address some of the questions that they may have about their own situation and to demystify some of the jargon around the care system.
Although it was a great deal of fun playing around in front of the green screen, this filming session also felt incredibly poignant. It is so rare that care leavers are given the opportunity to pass on their words of encouragement to the younger generation. This is a unique project that we hope will make a real difference to young people’s lives. Filming is still underway and our London young people will have the chance to get involved next week. We will be sure to share the videos once they are created. Watch this space!
Head of Political Engagement