The pandemic may have forced families across the UK to retreat to their homes over the last year. But it’s a sad reality that for thousands of young people they do not have a safe place to call home.
That’s why Essex County Council are asking Essex residents to share their home and help transform the lives of young people across the county as a supported lodgings provider.
Susie Williams, aged 57 from Springfield in Chelmsford, has been providing supported lodgings for 6 months to an 18-year-old. She explains why she wanted to get involved.
“Young people in care need support up to the age of 21, so that they have that transition to independent living.
It’s more than just providing a home and support for independent living though. At that age family support and nurturing is still incredibly important. Especially when they may have suffered significant trauma and neglect or abuse. They need to be nurtured to achieve their goals in the future.
The young woman we have staying with us wants to go to university. We are giving her emotional stability, as well as encouraging small steps of independence.
They need that time to heal and I felt that I could make a real difference to a young person’s life by giving them that time”.
In Essex 30% of children in care are aged 16+ and it is predicted 475 children will come into care in 2021. Essex County Council are looking for more people like Susie to provide supported lodgings for those aged 16 – 18 years old.
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. They can also continue to work fulltime but must consider how they can be available to a young person through the holidays.
Cllr Louise McKinlay, Cabinet Member for Children and Families at Essex County Council, said: “Susie works full-time as a Family Centre Worker alongside providing Supported Lodgings. For many, that’s why supported lodgings is a good alternative to full-time fostering, but equally as rewarding.
“It is more than just providing a young person with a place to live though. You’ll be giving them a safe, caring, stable home environment which will help prepare them for an independent life”.
Essex County Council offer all those who provide supported lodgings high-quality bespoke local training with an active network of support groups providing opportunities to meet and learn from other supported lodgings providers. They also have 24/7 local support, a dedicated social worker and access to a team of clinical psychologists available.
Susie credits this training and support with giving her the right tools to confidently care for the young person she provides supported lodgings for. In particular, the trauma informed therapeutic training which launched this year.
“It’s helped me to understand why this young person can often forget to do small tasks and enabled us to identify better ways of working together. I’m much more empathetic to her situation, which has really improved our relationship.
“For anyone considering providing supported lodgings, I’d say that if you have a spare bedroom and some extra love to give, then you can do it! Right from the beginning Essex County Council have always been available for us, supported us and encouraged us. You’ll have that too.
“The difference you can make to a young person is beyond words. We simply can’t put a value on having her here”.