For care experienced young people, the absence of a parental figure can make the transition to independent adulthood daunting and difficult. This can have knock on effects later in life. It can even impact the next generation.
At NPC we’ve been investigating the availability and effectiveness of charitable and statutory services for care experienced young people in Greater Manchester. We’re publishing this research so that other funders can apply these lessons to helping even more young people in Greater Manchester and across the UK.
This report covers five broad areas where there are gaps in provision and where philanthropic funding could make a difference:
- Relationships and support network
- Mental health
- Education and training
- Achieving financial stability
- Living independently
We believe the most important interventions to fund are:
- Mental health
What to fund
- Helping care experienced young people to build relationships is fundamental. Mentoring can be a good way to do this and can help with every aspect of a young person’s journey. The GMCA aims to address this in time through its care leaver pledge, but we heard through our research that mentoring provision across Greater Manchester remains patchy. Additional funding could bridge gaps in provision.
- In addition to mentoring there is a need for better information and resources specifically targeted at care experienced young people, for example on education, employment or apprenticeships, finance and life skills. Care experienced young people also need better information on care leaver specific services in Greater Manchester to make sure young people are aware of opportunities on offer.
- Mental health is often an issue for care experienced young people, yet the NHS is usually so overworked it can only focus on crises. Funders could make a difference by funding mental health provision specifically targeted at care experienced young people, with services publicised to that group and service providers adequately trained in the needs and experiences of young people leaving care. Examples of this could be funding the salaries of clinical practitioners, general mental health training for charity staff, or care leaver specific services to support low-level mental health problems. Services should be available to all and last for as long as young people need them.
- The mental health study published by the Cloud42 researchers interviewed as part of this work contains several other valuable recommendations for how to improve mental health provision for care experienced young people in Greater Manchester.
- Finally, employers, education providers and the government need to be more aware of the specific circumstances and needs faced by those with experience of the care system. The most impactful awareness-raising and campaigning is often that with care experienced voices at the centre, so fund charities which support young people to advocate and raise awareness of the complexity of their circumstances.
How to fund
Our usual advice on good funding practice is just as important when giving to support those with experience of care. The charitable funders we spoke to for this research gave several key pieces of advice for supporting care leavers in Manchester:
- Give multi-year grants wherever possible. Long-term funding enables charities to plan and think more strategically. It allows them to spend less time fundraising and more time doing. For care experienced young people, there are obvious benefits to the continuity and sustained support which funding over a longer period provides.
- Give core and unrestricted grants. Funders we spoke to described the importance of giving core and unrestricted funding to allow charities to cover their overheads, respond flexibly to emergencies like the Covid-19 pandemic, and meet new needs when they arise. We heard from Lloyds Bank Foundation that giving restricted and project-based grants risked limiting the scope of how a grant can be used and made it harder to pivot quickly when circumstances require. The complexity of the situation for care leavers in Manchester makes it important for charities to be able to set the agenda for how grants are spent, as they are best placed to decide where they can be most effective.
- Collaborate with peers. Funders we spoke to told us they are increasingly working in partnership with their peers since the pandemic, a trend they wish to continue. Networks such as the Greater Manchester Funders Forum provide a vehicle for collaboration which can help funders get to know one another and share ideas. Young people in our focus group lamented the lack of communication and collaboration between services in Manchester, which is something that greater collaboration between funders of those services could begin to address.
- Make sure services are trauma informed. Funders should ensure that services funded are equipped to support those with experience of trauma. Even staff not directly providing mental health support should be able to identify where mental health may be an issue for a young person and signpost to the right help.
- Put care experienced young people’s voices at the heart of all you do. Many of the challenges identified during our research were caused by people not understanding the needs of care experienced young people. Those best placed to articulate those needs are surely those young people themselves, and the best charitable initiatives are often those which hand decision making power to young people to shape their own solutions.