A group of young people on a mission to influence decisions that affect their everyday lives are celebrating a major milestone. 18 people aged between 8 and 25 sitting on the new Champions for Change board have met with senior figures at South Ayrshire Council for the first time and secured a host of new pledges for enhanced services.
The South Ayrshire Champions Board was set up at the end of 2017 after securing £224,000 from the Life Changes Trust. Champions Boards provide platforms for young people to talk directly to Council staff, elected members and service providers to discuss the challenges that being in care can bring, and how these challenges can be faced and overcome with the right support.
At the first meeting of the South Ayrshire Champions Board members agreed to:
- By at least the end of this Council term care experienced young people will not have to apply for housing through the homeless system.
- Free access for looked after and accommodated children to South Ayrshire sport and leisure facilities through the Access for Leisure scheme.
- All staff will receive induction training on their role as a corporate parent.
- The Council will adopt a Family Firm Approach – to ensure every care experienced young person in South Ayrshire is given support to access a wide range of vocational learning opportunities, including apprenticeships, through a targeted approach to ensure the best outcome for each individual.
Councillor Julie Dettbarn, Chair of the South Ayrshire Integration Joint Board, said the platform was already driving change, "In just a few short the South Ayrshire Champions Board has already influenced the way we work, engaged with people from all walks of life, and importantly got that message to those with experience of living in care.
"It's easy to forget that not everyone has equal access to opportunities but by closing the gap and empowering young people who have been in care we're taking steps to give young people an active voice.
"Today's event was a fun way to officially mark the start of our work, and while there's still much to do, I'm confident that the enthusiasm of all those involved will deliver positive change in the years ahead."
Behind the scenes members had already started to build up momentum, with achievements including:
- Engaged directly with forty care experienced young people through activities including housing conversation and meal, group work, filming and photo shots.
- Initiated and supported South Ayrshire Council signing the Care Leavers Covenant, which supports care leavers transitioning into adulthood.
- Provided awareness raising sessions to 469 corporate parents across South Ayrshire from elected members to Head Teachers, Police Scotland and community representatives.
- Identified and supported a young care leaver to sit on South Ayrshire foster care panel.
- Appointed its first Modern Apprentice to help drive forward the work and maintain the momentum.
Champions Boards support care experienced young people to develop positive relationships and become active in their communities. They encourage young people to influence change themselves by listening to their lived experiences, giving them a space to grow their confidence, abilities and potential.
While many care leavers do well despite the challenges they face, as a group, they experience poorer outcomes such as:
- Much higher rates of early death, including higher rates of suicide
- Worse mental health and physical well-being
- Poorer access to continuing education or training
- Greater unemployment and homelessness
Heather Coady, Director of the Trust's Care Experienced Young People Programme said, "It is such a privilege to witness and support this fantastic network of Champions Boards in Scotland to grow. Working alongside young people and learning from their lived experience can really affect positive change for this care experienced young people. Champions Boards show care experienced young people that they are valued, supported, and listened to as the experts when it comes to their own lives. Our goal is to see policy and practice in the care system changing to reflect that."
The Life Changes Trust was set up with a Big Lottery Fund endowment of £50 million to improve the lives of two key groups in Scotland: people affected by dementia and care experienced young people.