A get together of young people who were formerly in care and have now entered adult life is part of a range of activities for Care Leavers’ Week, run by Sheffield City Council’s Leaving Care Service.
Many care leavers who are of “an invisible minority” will meet up with each other and the agencies that supports them to share their stories and celebrate their achievements.
The purpose of Care Leavers Week is to raise public awareness about an invisible minority who face a particular set of challenges as they enter adult life and showcase their unique aspirations and success.
Luke Hebblethwaite, who graduated in July with a first class honours degree in history is now well on his way to becoming a certified secondary school history teacher. He says support is vitally needed to help care leavers such as himself break the depressing cycle that many children leaving care can find themselves in.
He grew up on a council estate as an only child caring for his physically disabled mother who was on benefits. When he was 11 years old, his baby brother was born and he suddenly found himself entrusted with the adult responsibility of raising his brother. He had a poor social life, his education suffered and the state of his mental health declined. He was taken into care at age 15.
“Growing up, my main concern was that I would be caught in the vicious cycle of living on benefits with a minimum-wage job. But now I have an equal opportunity to break that cycle, to make something of myself, to help my brother, my mother and, when I have my own children, to help them as well. My foster parents gave me a tremendous amount of support with my education and independent living skills and my Leaving Care Service Personal Advisor made sure I had the right help with my finances and accommodation at university” said Luke.
He’s also lauded Project Apollo, , a Department for Education funded project, being delivered by youth charity, Sheffield Futures, in partnership with the Sheffield City Council Leaving Care Service. This programme aims to provide 100 care leavers over the next three years with a personal transition coach and an employer engagement officer to help them achieve and maintain employment, education or training.
“If Project Apollo can provide care leavers with an equal opportunity and higher education as I had, then it will break the cycle for them and create a ripple effect that would positively contribute to Sheffield’s society and economy.”
Councillor Jackie Drayton, Cabinet Member for Children, Young People and Families said: “We are committed to improving the lives of our children and young people in care and our care leavers, not just through quality care in life but after care as well.
“It’s wonderful to be celebrating the many achievements of our Care leavers. Care Leavers’ Week is a great opportunity to recognise the many obstacles they have overcome to achieve their full potential, and to make a positive contribution to our city and society.”