Scheme tackles fact that young people are more likely to experience homelessness and mental health problems

After a reported increase in the amount of vulnerable children needing support from Greater Manchester’s social services departments, national and local government - along with charitable initiatives - have been investigating ways in which to maximise support for children in care as they prepare to live independently.

The House Project is a scheme designed to help young people transition from living in care to an autonomous adult life. Care leavers often do not have the same family support networks that other young people do and are much more likely to experience homelessness and mental health problems than the general population.

The Housing Project is an initiative that was originally developed in Stoke-on-Trent and has since expanded nationally. The project will be able to support around 10 care leavers in the city.

Life as a care leaver can be hard. Without the safety nets so many of us take for granted, such as parental support, everyday living can be a struggle

It has been designed to help young people preparing to leave care by giving them an empty property which they then decorate themselves and move into on a shared basis. They will be able to continue living in it for as long as they choose, with their rent and utility bills paid for them by the council until they reach the age of 18.

Young people on the scheme are supported by a team from The House Project to ensure they have all the practical and emotional help they may need to provide them with the skills to make the house their home and to maintain their tenancy.

The principle underpinning the project is that by encouraging young people to invest time and effort in their surroundings, their path towards independence will be smoothed. 

House Project participant Peter said: "Having a house where I can live independently has been a dream ever since I entered care... There are many positives to living in a shared house. You are always there for each other whether you need somebody or you just want a chat."

Manchester care leavers are already entitled to ‘supported lodging’, where they rent a room in a house for £15 a week and do their own cooking, cleaning and laundry. Supported lodgings are designed to be a stepping stone towards getting their own place, with the home owner on standby to help them prepare for living alone.

Care leavers are also entitled to a council tax discount until they are 25, as well as potential other benefits and a personal advisor.

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Illustration from the Care Exprienced Conference

In 2018 the Department for Education launched its Care Leaver Covenant, as an ambition for businesses, charities and every Government department in England to sign up to commit to provide work-based opportunities to young people leaving the care system. This is reflected in the Greater Manchester Guarantee. It is proposed this guarantee will go much further than the National Care Leaver Covenant and comprises the following five elements, shaped and agreed in consultation with young people and endorsed by the Combined Authority in February:

  • No Care Leavers will be made intentionally homeless.
  • Care Leavers will be able to access a clear, consistent education, employment, and training offer.
  • There will be access to a mentor for every Care Leaver that wants one.
  • Care Leavers will be supported as a priority group within the health economy.
  • From September 2019, care leavers eligible for the Mayor’s Opportunity Pass will be able to travel for free on buses across the city region. If funding can be identified and made available, free bus travel will be extended to care leavers up to the age of 21.
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Andy Burnham

Andy Burnham said: “We know life as a care leaver can be hard. Without the safety nets so many of us take for granted, such as parental support, everyday living can be a struggle when faced with barriers most people never encounter.

"That is why I want Greater Manchester to act as the parents of all our care leavers – this Guarantee is about our city-region’s bespoke system offering the support, encouragement and opportunities care leavers need.”

Councillor Garry Bridges, executive member for children’s services, Manchester City Council, said: “The vast majority of our young people are lucky enough to have the support of their families behind them, looking out for them and pushing them on to future success.

“For care-leavers, however, things can be very different and we’re determined to change this. Our ambition is to give them the right help at the time they need it – wrapping as much care and support as they need around them so they thrive and succeed in all aspects of their lives."

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Certificate from the Greater Manchester Care Leavers' Awards

On the 30th September 2019 it was also announced that £1.2 million would be invested by the Government in helping young people facing difficult circumstances, such as care-leavers, into employment.

The award is to be split between Greater Manchester and the West Midlands.

This month also sees the 2019 Greater Manchester Care Leaver Awards, which provide an opportunity to recognise the achievements of care-experienced young people from across the region. The event is organised by the universities and local authorities in Greater Manchester, and provides an opportunity to highlight someone who deserves credit for what they have done in any aspect of their life.

Find out more

Find out more about The House Project.

The Greater Manchester Care Leavers’ Awards take place on 23rd October 2019 at the Royal Northern College of Music.

The Children’s Commissioner Office can give advice on rights and entitlements for care leavers.

National Care Leavers Week 2019 begins on the 28th of October.