Young People's Zone

A Monday in the life of Tom, Community Advocate for Looked After Children & Care Leavers

I was the rapid response advocate on Friday, working on urgent cases from our Helpline, so I’m keen to get back to my own cases.

I start my day calling Simon, one of the young people I am advocating for. Simon is 16 and homeless; his case was recently allocated to me for one to one support. Simon was kicked out of his family home and is “sofa surfing”, moving between overcrowded friends’ and relatives’ houses. He’s running out of options and won’t be able to do this for much longer. He went to his local Housing Department but was told to return with ID and a letter from his parents to say that he could not return to the family home, which is unlawful. When a child his age presents as homeless he should be accommodated while an investigation into his support needs takes place. At Simon’s request we contacted the Local Authority and they agreed to look for accommodation but seemed reluctant to support him as a looked after child and offered no immediate support. Simon was still worried about having nowhere safe to stay and asked me to help him arrange a meeting with a solicitor to help encourage the Local Authority to follow the correct procedures. If Simon becomes looked after he will get stable accommodation, support with health and other welfare needs, and he’ll be in a position to go to university, which is what he wants.

After arranging the meeting for Simon, I attend a short legal training briefing. It covered a part of the Children Act which will help me better advise and support more young people who are in work and aged between 21 and 25. It was very interesting and useful but was two hours that I didn’t get to spend on my cases.

I grab a quick bite for lunch; the office is close to a bunch of great cafes which is handy and it’s nice to get out of the office for a while.

After lunch I receive a call from Marian’s solicitor - it’s good news!

Marian came to the country as an asylum seeker aged 15. She lived with a relative until that broke down when she was 17 so she was taken into care. Marian’s case was closed before she turned 18 when she supposedly declined an offer of housing and said she no longer needed support. Marian told me how the accommodation she was offered did not feel safe and said she wasn’t offered any other placements or support. She said that Children’s Services hadn’t explained what would happen if they stopped working with her. Even after we supported Marian to raise this with Children’s Services they did not offer to provide her with support. This left Marian with little option but to instruct a solicitor with my support to challenge this and, after a threat of taking the issue to high court, the Local Authority has given Marian retrospective Leaving Care status. Marian now has a social worker who can also support her to resolve her outstanding immigration issues. Marian was really pleased with the outcome.  She asked for my support through the pathway planning meetings to make sure she gets the support she needs and is entitled to.

I leave the office to attend a meeting with Joseph who has learning difficulties and will be going through the adult supported housing system to make sure his needs continue to be met. We discuss what kind of placement would be suitable for him. At the moment he is in a hostel which has been refurbished but other residents use drugs (such as heroin) and he doesn’t like this. Joseph wants to live in assisted housing where there will be someone to help him on a day-to-day basis. I pass what he’s said on to his social worker who said she would look into finding a more suitable placement for Joseph.

When I’m back in the office I follow up a complaint from a young person who wants to be supported as a looked after child and I chase missing ID on behalf of a young person who went through an age assessment.

I haven’t been able to get through to another two homeless young people I’m supporting. It’s worrying but quite a common challenge we face when working with homeless young people. They can be difficult to contact for a host of practical reasons – for example, a homeless young person may not be able to keep their phone charged. I’ll continue trying to get through to them.

While this work can be difficult and pressurised we regularly get heartfelt positive feedback from the young people we have worked with. A young person I work with recently told me;

“Having someone to talk to made everything much better. Someone to listen to you and advise you at times was really helpful.”