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Question and Answer Panel feedback

Why can’t I see my PA more often?
Usually care leavers see you every 8 weeks or more if needed.  Some care leavers do not want to see their PA more than that, however PA’s will keep in touch to make sure you’re alright.  If you need help they will try and assist and are dedicated to support you as much as they can.  There is no reason why you couldn’t see your PA more often and you can contact them if you need to.
What opportunities are there for me to find employment, if I do not want to do further education?
Sharon Williams from the Virtual School explained that Employment Education and Training (EET) is part of the remit of the Virtual School.  Through the Personal Education Plan (PEP) process, they track your interests and aspirations to see what you would like to do in the future and can match you to good careers advice and guidance.  The virtual school make sure that your career path is suitable for you.  Working with a company called MPloy, they will discuss opportunities that they can offer such as training or apprenticeships.  They will get this information from your PEP, so it is important that you tell us in your PEP what your interests are.  The Virtual School are delivering an activity programme called Passport to Success for years 7 to 13 and will look at options, support, apprenticeships, qualifications, etc.  You will be invited to events and will be able to ask questions.
Why haven’t I been invited to my PEP meeting?
Sharon Williams explained that she would also want to know why you haven’t been asked to your meeting.  You should be asked to attend your PEP, you don’t have to attend if you don’t wish to, but you have to have a PEP completed.  The information in your PEP goes to the Virtual School and is needed to see what support you may need.  If you do not attend, someone should find out your views, any issues you have in school, any support you need and what is going well.  You can chair your own meeting and run your own PEP meeting.  If you speak to your designated teacher and can ask more about your PEP.  Also your Independent Reviewing Manager should ask about your PEP.

Members of the group explained that they did not all know who their designated teacher is in school.

Action – Sharon will raise this at the designated teacher network meeting.

Why do I get taken out of lessons for meetings, as other people in school ask me why and I don’t want them to know I am in care?
Answer – You should never be taken out of lessons to attend meetings, you need to be in class to learn and PEPs should take place at a time most convenient to you.  Ann asked if anyone was taken out of class for health assessments, some members said that they have been.

Action – Ann Birrell to follow up with the school nurses.

Cllr Tom McInerney said you have a right to say no about being taken out of lessons.

Action – Tracey Coffey to remind social workers that meetings should not take place during lesson time, unless in exceptional circumstances. 

Action – Sharon to email designated teachers that you should be asked if you would like to attend your PEP and that the times are ok for you and that the PEPs need to be re-arranged if they interfere with lessons.

Why am I allowed to catch the bus to school, but not allowed to catch the bus home?
Answer – It can depend on circumstances and there could be a range of reasons, some young people may not return from school and we need to make sure you are safe and protected and do not go off with someone.  However, you should be given a reason why and if you’re not happy with the reason, then speak to your social worker.
Why can’t I find affordable and suitable housing after I turn 18?
It always depends on where the young person wants to live.  It is harder to find accommodation in Runcorn compared to Widnes.  Housing in Widnes is much more affordable.  Sam Murtagh explained that they are currently doing something about it, there is the private sector which is a property owned by a landlord, who rents a property to you and there is a registered social landlord which offers more affordable housing.  Sam said that they are looking for more registered social landlords, as these offer more accommodation to young people who are 16 ½ years of age, they receive support and could eventually end up living there long term.  There are not enough 1 bedroom properties and if you rent a 2 bedroom property, you would have to pay bedroom tax if no one lives in the second bedroom.

A member of the CICC asked if you can move a friend in with you, Sam and Wendy both agreed that it was a good idea if you know the person well and would need to think about who is named on the tenancy agreement (a contract between you and the landlord about renting a property) especially if something went wrong between you and your friend.  Sam agreed that moving in on your own can be hard and lonely and this could be a good option for some people.  But to also think about what happens if you decide you do not want to live together any more or if you fall out?

If I am not ready to move when I am 18 to live on my own, what can I do?
You need to be thinking about what you want, if you are currently in foster care and you and your carer agree, you can ‘stay put’ after 18, some care leavers stay with carers whilst they are at university, at college or are not ready to move.  In residential care, the government are looking at ‘staying close’, where a young person gets support from residential care to become independent.

Discussions need to take place with your social worker and foster carer before you turn 18.

Sam Murtagh explained about semi-supported accommodation, you get your property depending on your needs and you can have 24hours support that gradually reduces as you turn 18.  Support can be increased if you need it.  The government are currently discussing care leavers rights to be extended until your 25 years old.

What opportunities are there for children who live out of borough (leisure)?
Currently there are differences due to the agreements that have been made with the leisure services for Halton residents.  This could be looked at for different locations and some young people out of borough already get opportunities that are funded by Halton.  But anyone out of borough should have the same opportunities.
What support do I get when I leave care?
Wendy Maguire showed the group the What Happens Next guide for care leavers.  She explained that there is a lot of information to help care leavers around money, education, health, accommodation and so on.  At 16 all children in care will start their pathway plan, which is a plan to look at the support you need and what is available to you.  It is important to be part of the pathway plan, so that you can get your views heard and talk about what you need.
Why can I not have a pet?
it might be that someone in the household may have an allergy or asthma or may not like pets, as you cannot make someone have a pet.  Many foster carers like to go on holiday and having a pet can tie them down.

One member of the group asked about contact with a pet, Wendy answered that it would depend on who the pet lives with.

Can I have longer contact with my family, as I know other people who get longer?
Each person is individual and will depend on age and reasons for being in care, the levels of supervision needed at contact, however contact arrangements should always be revised.  All children in care should be informed the reasons for the times and understand why.  Some children want less contact, each person is individual.  If you want to have your contact looked at, then speak to your social worker and independent reviewing manager, if you feel you are not being listened to, ask to see an advocate.  You can voice your opinion if you have siblings and they want different contact plans.

Sarah mentioned that someone had spoken about a care leaver not being able to see their siblings.  Tracey Coffey explained that it should be part of the siblings care plan to incorporate contact with an older sibling.  If this is not happening, the care leaver could make a complaint.

What would happen to me when I leave care?
housing was covered in a question previously.  It all depends on the individual’s needs and expressing what they want.   You express your thoughts in your pathway plan and plan what you want for when you leave care.