How to support young foster care leavers moving into social housing
Eathan is an 18-year-old foster care leaver who currently lives in semi-supported accommodation managed by community organisation Bournville Village Trust. Eathan was chosen to be a baton bearer for the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham this summer. He shares five ways housing associations could improve how they support young care leavers moving into social housing.
1: Give us boundaries and consistency. Despite what people may believe, young people love rules and boundaries. In fact, sometimes when young people ‘act out’ it’s when they feel rules and boundaries have been changed or not followed. As a housing professional, explaining what your role is, what you are and aren’t responsible for and what we are entitled to is key. Be consistent with us, including your communication and appointments.
2: Be patient with us. If you have a young tenant moving into one of your properties, it’s likely they have a story to tell. However, please don’t interrogate and most importantly, don’t pander or be over sympathetic. Instead allow young tenants to develop a rapport with you, they will tell you about themselves when it’s appropriate and they feel comfortable. We’ll most likely open up in time. The offer of food can often help too!
3: Get to know your community and be relatable. I’m not suggesting you wear your cap backwards and use ‘our lingo’. People, especially young people, respond to those who are more relatable. Officers need to know the communities they work in and represent. Why not get out into your communities? Get to know people, have a presence.
4: Make communication open and transparent. If a young person moving into social housing has been in care, it’s likely that they have had some form of family breakdown. Those that have left care are assigned a support [worker] and many supports will still be in contact with the young person’s family members. Please don’t contact our parents or guardians in regards to our tenancy. We want to be treated as adults and going to someone else to talk about us usually doesn’t go down well. Be open and honest with us.
5: Get creative to hear our voice. Our voices are important and something that I truly champion. My issue is that you rarely achieve this through committees. If you want to hear the voices of your young people, get creative and more interactive. Unlike myself, some young people will feel uncomfortable attending meetings and face-to face get-togethers but still have a lot to say, so think outside the box to make sure you hear what we have to say.
Eathan is passionate about developing a voice for young people in similar situations to himself and wants to share his experience and influence change in the areas of care, fostering and housing. To contact or work with Eathan, email firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him Instagram @speakout.acorn