Author: James Frame
Moving on from care to adulthood and to having your own place to stay is a daunting experience and presents significant challenges for care experienced young people. There are a range of accommodation options available within and across local authority areas but these can vary in their purpose and design.
Having been in care myself and then ‘encouraged’ to move aged 16 into homeless and temporary accommodation (adult-type hostels, B&Bs, temporary furnished accommodation) I was keen to explore what, if anything, had changed since I left care seven years ago. At the time I wasn’t made fully unaware of the options available to me and I know now that I certainly wasn’t ready.
My own experience wasn’t particularly positive, having 25 moves between the ages of 16-18. Some services were better than others but the temporary nature of accommodation and support offered fuelled a sense of insecurity at a time when I needed stability most – I felt I always had to have a black bag ready as I never knew when or where I’d be moving next.
As such I have a real interest in helping improve services for other care experienced young people and had an idea for a supported accommodation project. To help me understand more about what is currently available and how these services operate, I undertook a short qualitative study of independent supported accommodation providers commissioned by local authorities in Scotland. Whilst these were registered as adult services aimed more broadly at young homeless people, they were primarily offering services for care experienced young people. Even when moving on from care, a young person had to be regarded as ‘homeless’ to be referred into these services.
The study visits gave me an opportunity to get a better understanding of the type of services and support provided. Visits were arranged and semi-structured interviews undertaken with managers and staff from the four identified services. In order to gain as full and honest a picture as possible, all responses have been anonymised and no individual service or local authority area will be identified. I am grateful for their willingness to be involved and thank them for their openness and insight into their service. I met some committed and caring staff working in a complex and challenging system, and much of what I learned, both positive and negative, chimes with my own experience and that of my care experienced friends and acquaintances.