Improving Experiences For The Next Generation.
Drive Forward has provided a space for care-experienced people to play a significant and active role in improving experiences for both their peers and the next generation of children and young people going through the care system. After a discussion about the shared grievances of housing in London, Drive Forward’s ambassadors came together and founded the Drive Forward Policy Forum in 2016.
Drive Forward Policy Forum
Drive Forward facilitates a Policy Forum of care-experienced campaigners who use their lived experience to fight for change so that future children in care and care leavers get a better deal. Their mission is to bridge the disconnect between care-experienced young people and policy makers in order to achieve effective change and equality of opportunity for care leavers.
Policy Forum members have met with a range of local and national politicians and policy makers including Secretaries of State and the Leader of the Opposition. The group also seeks to collaborate with care-experienced peers whenever possible and has worked with young people from Catch 22’s young people’s benchmarking forum, Who Cares? Scotland, VOYPIC, Voices from Care Cymru, EPIC and Leaders Unlocked.
Improving Care Leavers’ Mental Health
Voted as our ‘key campaign’ in 2020, the Policy Forum’s mental health ask is for there to be bespoke, easy to access mental health support for care leavers in every local authority. Although children in care are given priority access to mental health support (CAMHS), this is not the case for care leavers. This means that young people transition from care at the same time as their CAMHS support is stopped aged 18. They must then, usually, go via their GP to access talking therapies. Waiting times can be months if not years, and once they access support, it can be short-lived and not tailored to their needs. Furthermore, medical professionals (including therapists and counsellors) often know very little about the care/leaving care system.
Stop Unneccesary Criminalisation
In 2019, the Policy Forum began to discuss the issue of criminalization of children in care and care leavers. They were influenced by both their own experiences and also extensive research conducted by the Howard League for Penal Reform. When the Howard League started to look at the issue, children in care were 15 times more likely to be criminalized than their peers. The group have successfully campaigned for there to be a London-wide protocol on reducing the criminalisation of children in care and care leavers. They continue to work with the London mayor’s office to implement this and are now campaigning for every area in the country to adopt similar protocols.
Further Education & Employment
The Education and Employment group work to further Drive Forward Foundation’s wider mission of creating a world in which care leavers can reach their full potential through sustainable and fulfilling employment. They work with our corporate engagement team to advocate for ring-fenced opportunities for care leavers and also work with higher education institutions to advocate for better support for care-experienced learners.
What does it mean to be a Policy Forum member?
As a Policy Forum member, you join a community. You’ll have the option to join a friendly WhatsApp group with other passionate care-experienced campaigners and will also get access to a ‘Members’ Area’ on our website. You’ll receive regular updates and 1-2-1 phone calls with a dedicated member of Drive Forward staff.
The Policy Forum is democratic. This means that key decisions about the direction of the Policy Forum as well as the nature of its campaigns are decided by its members.
Drive Forward has a duty of care to its Policy Forum members. We have an aftercare policy which you can read here (hyperlink) and all external stakeholders who wish to meet with our Policy Forum must sign a Visitors’ Charter.
Most Policy Forum meetings are over Zoom but we try and meet up for socials and strategy days whenever possible. We also arrange training for members where possible. Past trainings have included public speaking training, storytelling and ‘how Parliament works’ with an ex-government minister.