Blog from Sam Olsen, Director of Strategy and Development, St Christopher’s Fellowship

The New Belongings initiative has provided a fresh focus on services for care leavers and an impetus to improve them. Key to its vision is involving care leavers in developing services that are fully integrated and easy to access.
St Christopher’s is absolutely committed to those objectives. We work closely with our young people and with local authority commissioners to deliver high quality services that meet both their needs.
We aim to be a great parent for the 16 to 21-year-olds in our care. And, like any loving and supportive parent, we will fight to keep them safe and ensure they get the best possible start in life.
Back in 1870, we were among the first organisations to recognise the challenges facing vulnerable younger people and help them improve their lives.
That work continues 143 years on. This week – National Care Leavers’ Week – we opened our latest 16+ transition service in West London which will support young people towards independent living.
It has been developed in consultation with London local authorities and we will be working intimately with them to ensure the service meets the needs of the individual young people they refer.
It is equipped to support needs including emotional and behavioural problems, substance misuse, mental ill-health, chaotic lifestyles and offending behaviour. Its layout has the flexibility to enable young people to “step down” from high support to medium support as they progress.
The West London service follows the success of our Lewisham 16+ service, Knowland House. In Camden, North London, we’re working with the council to provide an assessment centre – first part of its highly-regarded young people’s pathway.
Many of our services take “spot purchase” referrals, a model that allows local authorities to commission from us care which is exactly right for each individual young person.
Through our C4C (Challenge For Change) programme we involve our young people in every aspect of the services we provide, including interviewing new staff. We listen carefully to what they say and act on it.
For instance, when young people told us they found our information leaflets boring and unhelpful we enabled them to produce a series of short films on the issues that were important to them. We’ll be showing them at a special West End premiere in November.
St Christopher’s is proud to live the values behind New Belongings and support National Care Leavers’ Week 2013.

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