Services for Looked After Children
CAYSH has been delivering Semi Independent Accommodation (SIA16+) services to Looked After Children since 2002. We provide focussed, high quality support alongside accommodation for young people including unaccompanied minors with complex and diverse backgrounds. Working across a number of south London boroughs, our professional, experienced and committed staff guide and inspire young people to sustainable an authentic independence.
Young people first
CAYSH’s primary interest and responsibility is the safety, wellbeing and development of young people we work with. We provide safe, well located and well managed accommodation and comprehensively trained, experienced and committed people with the ability to deliver effective support for Looked After Children. Our support operates 8:00am to 8:00pm Monday to Friday and from 10:00 to 18:00 at weekends/bank holidays to meet the needs of those we work with, and where required this support is complemented by our Concierge service providing out-of-hours care and safeguarding cover.
Our accommodation is of a high standard, located practically for young people. Every young person has a room they can secure with a bed, wardrobe, chest of drawers, desk (and chair) and a sink and always includes Wi-Fi internet access for education, job seeking, building and maintaining social networks and recreation. We take great pride in ensuring young people have a safe, decent and stable place to call home from which to build the skills they need to progress to full independence.
Meeting identified needs and outcomes
CAYSH’s Advice and Support Officers (ASOs) provide support – generally a minimum of 5 hours per week – inspiring engagement and responding to service users’ needs as they work through their co-authored support plans. CAYSH’s ASOs support and guide young people as they develop the life skills required to sustain genuine independence and fulfil their potential. Our Independence Skills Programme is designed by and for young people exiting a care environment and it is because of the input we have had from former service users, we can be confident it meets young people’s needs.
Our ASOs have a great deal of experience working with ‘unaccompanied minors’ who will go on to seek asylum following their 18th birthday. Our ASOs have excellent knowledge of the legal framework and experience of working with specialist agencies and other stakeholders involved in supporting those seeking safe haven. Consequently, support might include attending Solicitor’s appointments and Asylum & Immigration Tribunal hearings for example. Our support also includes supporting young people as they near their 18th birthday – and helping them deal with the issues that result from an impending asylum application process. We then continue working with the young person should they receive a negative initial decision and assist them as they appeal or prepare to leave the UK.
ASOs receive training in working with young people who are new to using English and use interpreters where required. CAYSH translates key documents into the language of the young person and has strong partnerships in place with the Refugee Council, local CAMHS, various local counselling services and specialist medical organisations working with victims of torture. Almost all of the looked after children we work with experience challenges that result from separation, and many from other trauma too, and our staff help and encourage young people to access the services appropriate to their needs.
Our ASOs work with young people with challenging and risk-taking behaviour and develop support/risk management plans to manage young people’s behaviour and help keep them safe. ASOs address risky activities such as travelling late at night or staying away without permission with young people and encourage them to appreciate the importance of considering and managing risks and potential consequences as an essential tool for independence. We work closely with young people to assess their social network and work to ensure they are able to keep safe in all settings.
Maintaining Professional Standards
All CAYSH ASOs receive monthly Professional Case Supervision from a Qualified Social Worker Manager and attend weekly Team Meetings where cases are discussed in a supportive and confidential environment. ASOs have a clear understanding of the emotional impact on young people who will go on to seek asylum and who have likely experienced some form of loss and trauma.
ASOs along with all other staff and volunteers operate in an environment that is governed by an ISO9001 structured quality management system. Their approach to work, their contribution to CAYSH’s mission and their professional development occur within CAYSH’s bespoke competency framework.
Our competency framework is relevant from recruitment and selection through to exit for all staff and volunteers. An example of its benefit to young people and commissioners is that it demands we recruit ASOs who are excellent communicators who can quickly establish strong, trusted relationships with the young people they work with. This is tested fully at interview where service uses play a full active role on recruitment panels, and the ability of ASOs to quickly build trusted relationships and communicate effectively with young people is then monitored closely during their probationary period.
Meeting educational needs
Our ASOs have a strong focus on supporting young people into education and training and supporting them to build strong links with local colleges and training organisations to enable good progress towards independence. ASOs attend school/college ‘parent’s evenings’ and training reviews to support each service uses. All young people in CAYSH’s services including looked after children are actively encouraged to participate in volunteering activities with CAYSH and elsewhere.
The feedback we are able to gather through a range of formal and informal mechanisms (including volunteering with CAYSH, our Shadow Board, one-to-one planning sessions and house meetings) enables CAYSH to develop services that meet young people’s needs. In 35+ years we have learned that intertwining the needs of young people and service commissioners delivers the most successful results for both parties.