In order to maximise opportunity for care leavers, supported accommodation providers must offer more than housing. In this article, we discuss the factors influencing the quality of semi-independent living placements, as expressed by care leavers.
Young people often leave care without the guidance of a family or social network. Without the existence of semi-independent living companies like Bold Leap, they would be left to navigate early adulthood alone. While supported accommodation companies bridge a challenging gap between care and independence, the lack of regulation in the industry has created significant inconsistency in the level of support provided.
At Bold Leap, we know there are a range of factors that contribute to a young person’s overall experience of semi-independent living. For example, beyond the quality of housing, support staff significantly influence the personal development of a young person. Despite this widely confirmed need for support, some companies are providing a substandard level of care, leading to further disadvantage for our most vulnerable youth.
In September 2020, Anne Longfield, the Children’s Commissioner of England, released a report called ‘Unregulated’. The report detailed the experience of young people in supported accommodation, highlighting the factors that were most important to them.
We have collated a list of key factors discussed by the young people in care, showing how semi-independent living is more than a housing placement. It should always entail a holistic support approach that prepares young care leavers for a bright future.
1. Quality of housing
The quality of housing is a key factor in a young person’s experience of supported accommodation. In the Children’s Commissioner’s report, care leavers expressed the importance of having a comfortable place to call home. The house must be well-maintained, safe and tidy, as well as having areas for privacy; all essential features of a Bold Leap home.
2. Access to essential items
Young care leavers often don’t have the financial resources to furnish or decorate a new home. This is why all supported accommodation companies should provide furniture, crockery, cutlery and other essential items for young people to use. The ‘Unregulated’ report showed us that this is not happening, with some young people having to purchase their own items to complete daily living tasks.
At Bold Leap, all of our homes are fully furnished. We supply beds, sofas, crockery, cutlery, duvets, and more, to ensure young people are comfortable and have everything they need.
3. Relationships with staff
A vital factor in a young person’s experience of supported accommodation is their relationships with support staff. When young people understand help is only a call away, this greatly improves their confidence.
The Children’s Commissioner’s report notably states the importance of strong managers hiring likeminded staff. At Bold Leap, our Founder Peter is an experienced social worker who believes every care leaver deserves access to high-quality care. These strong values are reflected in Bold Leap’s homes, staff and level of support.
4. Keywork time
Keywork time relates to the quality one-to-one time spent with a support worker and a young person. Local authorities pay for care leavers to receive keywork time in supported accommodation. This time is essential for helping young people to navigate independence, seek help, and build trust with their support staff.
The Commissioner’s report revealed that one young person, entitled to 10 hours of keywork time per week, was merely asked ‘how’s life’ and ‘how’s everything going’. It is clear that some supported accommodation companies are not fulfilling their keywork requirements.
At Bold Leap, we want young people to not only feel safe at home, but to thrive as they enter early adulthood. We know that keywork time plays a vital role in building confidence and it is our priority that young people are given the tailored support they need.
5. Staff qualifications
Due to the lack of regulation in the supported accommodation industry, it is not necessary for support workers to have a qualification. While Bold Leap’s staff all have extensive experience and relevant qualifications, some companies rely on unqualified staff to work directly with young people. Professional training is particularly important when looking after young people with complex needs.
6. Help to manage budgets
Financial management is an essential life skill that every young person must learn. While budget creation and money management can be a difficult task to master, it is particularly challenging if a young person has nobody to seek guidance from.
The Commissioner’s report detailed that a key concern for young people was that they did not have help with financial management. At Bold Leap, we recognise the importance of learning financial skills and offer relevant resources and training to help young people develop good financial habits. The
Commissioner’s recent report put a spotlight on the experiences of young people in supported accommodation settings. At Bold Leap, we are constantly finding ways to enhance our support services. Listening to young people’s needs and ideas is a key part of this. Learn more about our holistic approach to semi-independent living or contact us today.