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Ending the #CareCliff 

We want to permanently remove the #CareCliff and end the expectation of ‘independence’ asked of young people as they approach 18.

Too many young people are expected to leave care before they’re ready, at a time in their life when they need stability the most. Young care leavers that Become supports have described that time as a “cliff edge” or “like being on death row, counting down the days” until they turn 18 and their placements are abruptly stopped.

We want to permanently remove the #CareCliff and end the expectation of ‘independence’ asked of young people as they approach 18. We want the Independent Review of Children’s Social Care to advocate for a reimagining of what support looks like for care-experienced young adults. We’re continuing to work alongside care-experienced young people to design how a new system could look and feel.

During National Care Leavers’ Week 2020, we launched our campaign to raise awareness of the #CareCliff alongside care-experienced young people and a number of other celebrities and supporters, including actress Samantha Morton, broadcaster DJ Annie Mac and podcaster Deborah Frances-White.

Sky's The Limit

What would it look like if care didn’t leave you? What should the care system be for young adults? What if the ‘care cliff’ didn’t exist?

What is Sky’s the Limit?

During National Care Leavers’ Week 2021, we launched a new group project to redesign ‘leaving care’ and offer a fresh and aspirational vision for how the care system should be supporting care-experienced young adults.

As the Independent Review of Children’s Social Care is in progress, and working towards developing its recommendations to the government in Spring 2022, we wanted to advocate for the changes young people told us they really want to see – such as an end to the ‘care cliff’ and a better offer of support to young adults.

We wanted to be – and must be – bold and ambitious with our demands.

We want to see the Review advocate for a creative reimagining of ‘leaving care’ which ensures young adults receive the support they need and deserve, and face no #CareCliff at age 18, 25 or beyond.

So, we decided to think BIG and ask:

What if the whole concept of ‘leaving care’ didn’t even exist? What would be there instead?

Big questions require big ideas. And for this project, the sky’s the limit!

What was our approach?

In the words of our wonderful Care Review Policy Group members, who helped us design (and name) this project, we took “a playful approach to a serious subject”.

We used lots of creative and playful techniques, working both individually and together in groups, to unearth new ideas for what an improved system could look and feel like.

Sky’s the Limit took place with a design group of ten young people working together primarily over three Zoom sessions – 1) Reflect, 2) Dream and 3) Create.

The design team all brought rich ideas, creativity and passion to the sessions, shared their own unique skills and talents, and were incredibly encouraging and kind to everyone else in the space. We want to say a big thank you to everyone involved for sharing their time.

Session 1: Reflect

Session 1 was all about reflecting safely – looking at what has happened in the past to enable us to try to build a better future.

We wanted to think ambitiously about what the care system could potentially be for young people, but it can be difficult to do this without understanding what’s come before. .

We focused on activities which explored the group’s own experiences and insights from care, so we could better understand collectively what there needs to be more of and what needs to change when it comes to designing our own system.

The group took the opportunity to reflect on specific moments (both positive and negative) while they were in and leaving care, keeping our shared group agreement in mind to acknowledge everyone’s experiences and stay safe and comfortable in the space.

Together, we created a shared ‘scrapbook’ of leaving care experiences and identified some of the shared ‘Sliding Doors’ moments in important relationships – what really small things ended up having a big impact in those journeys?

Session 2: Dream

In this session, we turned to dreaming BIG.

We tasked the group with acting as ‘architects’ whose goal was to design the best possible neighbourhood for a community of people, including those with care experience.

This involved using concepts from real urban design but giving it a fantasy spin, taking inspiration from TV shows like ‘The Good Place’. We explored what a really good neighbourhood is and how different aspects of that neighbourhood could really support care-experienced young adults, looking at how it is structured, what amenities it has, and what other qualities make it unique.

At the end, we were able to better articulate as a design group what care-experienced young adults might want from the places and people around them.

Session 3: Create

After reflecting and dreaming, it was time to begin setting out a new vision by putting together a design brief outlining what a good system of support for care-experienced young adults needs to consider.

We created our ‘toolboxes for life’ – going beyond just the normal ‘independent living skills’ which the current leaving care system focuses on and thinking about the key skills, qualities and ‘tools’ which care-experienced young adults want and need at this important life stage.

We then began to bring our ideas into our design brief, which we will present to Josh MacAllister and the Review team soon. This covers important insights into the ‘audience’ and the key skills and strengths of care-experienced young adults, how a new system should look and feel, and some of the specific concept ideas from the Dream session.

What’s happening next?

We’re currently polishing up the design brief to make sure it covers everything we’ve explored and created together through the project. After this, we’ll be sharing with the Review team (and everyone else!), and will continue to push for a reimagining of ‘leaving care’ which fits with the design brief we produce.

Get involved next time 

Does this project sound like something you would want to get involved with? We often have exciting projects focused on changing the system which care-experienced young people can get involved with. Sing up to join the movement below.