From 2014 to 2016, we piloted a programme called MyLife, MyFuture. This programme, funded by BBC Children in Need, worked with young people in local authority care, aged 11 to 14 and 15 to 18, in the London Borough of Sutton to improve their mental health and resilience.
The main aims of the programme were:
- To increase the young people’s confidence in themselves and their abilities
- To maintain the young people’s emotional well-being and resilience
- To promote a greater sense of aspiration in the young people for their futures
Children in care have no support network or anything to hold on to. I would have welcomed a prevention service when I was in care. Being involved in a group where people can share their experiences and encourage or discourage behaviours that are related to mental health problems is what I would have wanted.
The programme was underpinned by relationship-based practice and a strengths-based approach to supporting young people. It ran for 18 months and focused on young people’s personal development through the use of fun and creative weekly group sessions, mentoring and termly trips. It used a holistic approach covering issues affecting young people in care, including identity, respect, emotional well-being, stress, bullying and relationships.
The MyLife, MyFuture programme was not designed to ‘look after’ the young people but to offer something they may be longing for: the opportunity 'just to be'.
COVID-19 adaptation: Feeling Our Way project
During the current COVID-19 pandemic in the UK, our partners at the Leaving Care Service in Nottingham City Council reported that many care leavers are experiencing heightened anxiety and depression. Additionally, care leavers are socially isolated, which increases the risk of impulsive and risky behaviour, including increased alcohol and substance use. Consultations with Nottingham City Council indicated that care leavers would benefit from staying connected with friends, having internet access, practical resources to stay busy, and mental health advice.
In response, the Mental Health Foundation, in partnership with Nottingham City Council, is delivering a project called Feeling Our Way. This project, funded by the National Lottery Community Fund, will provide interim support for up to six months to care leavers in Nottingham City. Feeling Our Way provides a tailored package of support for 50 care leavers in Nottingham City that incorporates digital resources, at-home Well-being Kits, online one-to-one well-being check-ins and rapid referrals to relevant mental health workers where needed. The project will also support the Leaving Care Service in Nottingham City Council with additional resources and guidance to help the vulnerable young people they are working with.
We are adapting tried-and-tested content from the MyLife, MyFuture pilot project. Once completed, the materials and content for the Feeling Our Way project can be used to support vulnerable young people in any area of England during the COVID-19 pandemic.