This week is National Care Leavers' Week, an opportunity to showcase and celebrate the successes of care leavers. To mark the week, we wanted to showcase some of the hard work our care leaver team do to support Wirral's care leavers. We have a chat with one member of the team, Personal Advisor Jaine...
What is a PA?
A PA is a Personal Advisor for young people who are care experienced, and I have been with Wirral’s Care Leavers team for four and a half years.
We each support 24 young people (occasionally rising to 25 or 26) aged 16-25 in their transition to adulthood. Our role is to give advice and guidance, as well as practical support with things like finding suitable accommodation and employment, supporting and advising young people through their education, and increasing confidence in being independent. We provide emotional support for care leavers in developing and maintaining sustainable social support networks, keeping in touch with their families and building emotional resilience, as well as practical support with going to appointments, maintaining a tenancy, managing money and independent living skills.
Our aim is that by age 21 care leavers have the skills and confidence to be as independent as we would like our own children to be.
What does a typical day look like for you?
I plan my day within an inch of its life and by 10am it’s all gone out the window and I am dealing with broken cookers, rehoming dogs, rent arrears, health issues and putting up curtains. We are often the first and sometimes the only people that care leavers have to support them, and they expect a fast response from us. I like to be proactive, and we review tasks and actions in pathway plans and we plan for the next six to eight weeks. Most young people really like to see the progress they are making.
This involves meeting with agencies within the council as well as externally to discuss ways our young people can get support from specialised agencies.
What is the best part of your job?
Definitely when you can reflect on a positive journey care leavers can make between 16 and 21 and knowing you have been part of it. I feel a little bit like Nanny McPhee –
“When you need me, but do not want me, then I will stay. If you want me, but no longer need me then I have to go”.
Another success the team celebrate is the first time a young person actually phones you; it seems so simple but this is a big step for lots of young people.
What is the most challenging part of your role?
Lack of accommodation options for 18-year-olds leaving children’s provision, presenting as homeless is not a great way to spend your 18th birthday and it makes me really sad.
When I asked the other PAs about the challenges they thought I should consider, there was a strong feeling that we are often seen as the ‘Jack of all trades’ and ‘the solver of all problems’. Although we are definitely solution-focused, young people have built a strong relationship with their PA and often don’t want to see another ‘professional’ who is better placed to support them.
What do you enjoy about Care Leavers’ Week?
It’s great to see care leavers access activities they might not normally get to do, like beauty treatments, cooking sessions, delf-defence classes. It’s a chance for them to chill out and socialise. The PA team love having young people in ‘our space’, it gives it such a buzz and there’s usually a lot of laughing involved.
How can colleagues support the Care Leavers’ service?
Our new cohort of apprentices have recently started as council employees, a bit like the olden days when you went to work for your Dad!! Every council employee is a Corporate Parent and knowing what that means, and thinking of how your service can offer support to care experienced young people is a good start. We have also had some great working partnerships with our colleagues, including Leisure Services, Council Tax and Property Pool Plus and we would love to build on this.