“Offering supported lodgings has totally enriched my life. I wake up every day and feel alive because I know I am helping young people” - Jo Chisholm
With recent distressing images from the situation in Afghanistan flooding our TV screens, Essex County Council are today urging Essex residents to consider providing supported lodgings – Giving safety and security to a young person who has suffered trauma by sharing their home.
Often regarded as a rewarding alternative to fostering, supported lodgings carers offer a safe home where they give emotional and practical support for young people aged 16-18 to learn to live independently. Whilst a proportion of those young people needing support are unaccompanied children seeking asylum there are also many young people who have left foster care or experienced a family breakdown from within the UK.
With assistance from Essex County Council, supported lodging carers provide a nurturing environment in which young people can focus on their education and give emotional support to manage life’s challenges. Essential independent living skills, such as budgeting, cooking and cleaning, are also taught as they prepare for their transition into adulthood.
In 2021, it’s predicted that 475 children will come into care with 30% of them aged 16+. With the additional need presented by the situation in Afghanistan, Essex County Council (ECC) is today appealing for more people to provide supported lodgings.
People like 77-year-old Jo Chisholm from Chelmsford.
Jo has always had a passion for helping children and young people, and even spent most of her career supporting children. When her husband sadly passed away, Jo felt like she needed a new direction in her life.
“I lived in a 3-bedroom terraced house in Chelmsford and didn’t need all that space just for me. A house needs to be filled with people, laughter, and love!
“That led to me offering supported lodgings. It gave me the flexibility I needed at the time around a full-time job and childcare for my grandchildren – it was a perfect solution.”
22 years later she has lost count of the exact number of young people she has welcomed into her home but reports that it has totally enriched her life.
“For me, providing supported lodgings is more than just giving a young person a spare room. It’s about fostering relationships with them and supporting them to give them the best chance in life and treating them like your family.”
Essex County Council offers all supported lodgings carers high-quality bespoke local training with an active network of support groups providing opportunities to meet and learn from other carers. It also offers 24/7 local support, a dedicated social worker and access to a team of clinical psychologists.
Cllr Beverley Egan, Cabinet Member for Children and Families at Essex County Council, said: “Applications are welcomed from people from all walks of life. They can be single, married, from a same-sex family or retired but must have a spare bedroom.
“You can also continue to work fulltime but must consider how they can be available to a young person through the holidays. For many, that’s why supported lodgings is a good alternative to full-time fostering, but equally as rewarding”.
When Jo first arrived in England from Ireland at the age of 16, she had never had to navigate crossing a busy road. She simply didn’t know how to deal with traffic and being alone felt utterly overwhelmed.
It is this life experience which Jo feels has laid the foundations for being the best supported lodgings carer.
Jo is now encouraging others to consider becoming a supported lodgings carer: “I get up every day and feel alive because of them. I’m never bored having these young people around and the house is always so full of energy!
“You don’t know how much of a difference you can make to a young person’s life by simply opening your home to them. I can promise you that it will change their life – as well as yours.”
One life it has undoubtedly changed is a young woman in her 20s, who lived with Jo for three years: “As soon as I stepped into Jo’s house, I wasn’t just given a bed to sleep in, but I was immediately part of her family.
“If you’re considering becoming a supported lodgings carer, then never underestimate the impact you can have on someone’s life by just giving them a little bit of stability. With exams and school to contend with at age 16, your support enables a young person to focus on just that. They shouldn’t have to be worried about where their next meal is coming from or if they will have a warm bed for the night.
“I honestly don’t think I'd be where I am today if it wasn’t for Jo. She has very much helped shape my life by being a constant in it.”
You can watch Jo's story here.
If you are interested in finding out more about Supported Lodgings pop along to one of our informal online events.
Or you can find out more about supported lodgings by visiting www.essex.gov.uk/supported-lodgings or calling 0800 801 530.