Improving Experiences For The Next Generation.
…Drive Forward has provided a space for both current and former service users to play a significant and active role in improving experiences for both their peers and the next generation of care-experienced people. After a discussion about the shared grievances of housing in London, Drive Forward’s ambassadors came together and founded the Drive Forward Policy Forum.
Drive Forward Policy Forum
Made up of Drive Ambassadors and care-experienced young people, the policy forum’s focus is to communicate the disconnect between policy makers, parliamentarians and the lived experiences of those in and leaving care. They demand equity and equality through coordinated action at a policy, legislative and social level.
Policy Forum members have met with politicians (including a Secretary of State and the Leader of the Opposition), public officials, a London Deputy Mayor and more. Travelling to Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales, the group is eager to forge powerful connections beyond London and was invited to join the 5Nations1Voice project in 2018.
To address the disconnect and widening gap between policy makers and care-experienced people.
Our Policy Forum Ambassadors have come together to create a document detailing the group’s vision for improved care across the UK. Our members have selected the themes of Accountability, Stability, Opportunity & Aspiration, Love and Community to convey their agenda for improving the lives of care experienced people.
“Staff should have higher aspirations for looked after children and support them to be independent in care and after care.”
- Increased and more effective accountability can be achieved with:
- Specific training for local authorities on their role and responsibilities as corporate parents, and more consistency across the board. Greater sense of consequence for workers dealing with care leavers to ensure they fulfil their duties, as well as an awareness of these duties.
- Greater transparency for individuals in the care system.
- All members of society taking a proactive approach in improving experiences, akin to Scotland’s approach to the corporate parent.
- Improved recognition that you do not stop being a care leaver after 25, with retroactive action for any systematic failures.
“Foster carers, social workers and staff that have a direct influence on the outcome for care leavers should be held accountable for their outcomes.”
“I am concerned for those that fall through the gaps or have done, I feel that the government needs to do a regular check after the age of 18 to make sure care leavers are okay.”
More stable environments can be achieved for care leavers with:
- Increased access to suitable, affordable and accessible homes.
- Stable placements and school environments where bespoke support is offered to help ensure young people stay on the right track.
- An intersectional and early interventionist approach. Discussion of mental health at an earlier age with access to appropriate support.
- Improved access to mentoring and consistent one-to-one support. Creating a safe environment that explores and promotes positive relationships as well as identifying what constitutes healthy relationships.
- Public services all being responsible for those in care and care leavers.
“There needs to be better outreach support, assessing the young person’s capability to think and act responsibly with bills and well-being.”
Opportunity & Aspiration
“The local authority needs to put the young care leaver at the forefront of decisions.”
The opportunities and aspirations of care leavers can be improved by:
- Promoting empowerment & resilience, offering guidance whilst allowing individuals to make their own choices. Making those in care more aware of opportunities and services available to them.
- A more proactive approach from Local Authorities, making positive things happen rather than just preventing negative outcomes.
- Care leavers themselves being involved in the making of these opportunities, acting as ambassadors and championing best practice.
- A greater access to bursaries and scholarships for education and employment.
“There needs to be proportionate financial and human resources to support those who are achieving, rather than disproportionately focusing on those who are not.”
“For those in care to be treated not as a guest, but as a member of the family.”
More love will be felt in the care system with:
- An emphasis on compassion and an individualist approach from professionals.
- Creating environments that promotes and provide the opportunity for the development of positive self-concept and self-love.
- More regulation of foster parents and greater training opportunities for them.
- More innovation and modernisation in keeping separated siblings connected.
- A closer focus on the ‘whys’ of someone acting out, rather than just punitive measures.
“To do the job out of care rather than a job.”
“To make more of a care experienced friendly society.”
A stronger sense of community can be achieved with:
- The active encouragement of appropriately qualified care experienced people working in and advising on services in the care system.
- A network of care leavers to help up-skill those in care.
- More opportunities for care leavers to come together and connect.
- A greater awareness from society of care related issues.
“We all go through various trauma before care and whilst in care, that needs to be addressed by friendly, caring and supportive services.”
2019 Focus Campaigns
The Unnecessary Criminalisation of People in Care: An issue policy forum members have currently been engaged with actively, meeting with a Deputy Mayor and the CPS, has been the criminalisation of care experienced people. Taking an intersectional approach to this issue, the policy forum is seeking a comprehensive overhaul of the criminal justice system and police procedures coupled with consistent implementation. Crucially, policy forum members want those with the lived experience at the heart of the envision, realisation and monitoring of such changes.
Mental Health: With the trauma that can come from entering, being in and leaving care, our policy forum members have identified mental health as a pivotal area for discussion and campaigning. Their overall long term goal is one of seeking to establish a more trauma aware, better resourced and more accountable society.
The Stigma of Care: Owing to the typically negative statistics and problematic cultural/media representations of looked after children and care leavers, an intentional bi-product of the policy forum has been the subversion of this stigma. Policy forum members have and continue to use their lived experiences as a strength, establishing themselves as experts in the field.
A key long term goal of the policy forum is the establishing of care background as a protected characteristic. This is to ensure discrimination on the basis of care experience is legally prohibited.
Drive Forward is a great charity, providing help and support at what is often a crucial turning point in young people’s lives.
In 2019 Drive Forward Foundation, with the enthusiastic encouragement of the Policy Forum, made the formal decision to take their political engagement national. After consolidating the foundations of the London Policy Forum group as well its’ key focus campaign areas, we have begun travelling around the country to set up similar groups of care experienced people.
These groups will feed into our work in Westminster to ensure we are nationally representative, as well as being provided with the opportunities to engage with decision makers on the local level. Currently we have established connections in Manchester and York, and are looking to set up similar groups elsewhere around the country.
If you are a care experienced person living in England and are looking to set up such a group or be involved in an existing one please email email@example.com.
As a National Policy Forum member, you will be provided with:
- Training opportunities; including public speaking and community organising.
- The chance to engage directly with high profile politicians and influencers.
- UK travel opportunities, connecting you up with care leavers all around the country.
- The unique chance to improve care for your peers and the next generation of care experienced people.
Please get in contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you are a care-experienced person who wants to take part in our policy forum, or if you are someone who is also passionate about changing the care system and want to know how you can help. The policy forum seeks to be as representative and informed as possible, and can only do so with the committed involvement of people with the lived experience.