Care Leavers in Focus (CLiF)

Co-produced toolkits to improve services for young people in care

Developing advocacy materials with care-experienced young people to inform and improve services and support for other care-leavers across England and Wales. 


England and Wales

Tom Elkins
Kate Watson
Lauren Parr

Kate Watson
Rachael Burns
Lauren Parr

National Youth Advocacy Service (NYAS)
The Care Leavers Association
Catch 22
Drive Forward Foundation

Esmee Fairbairn Foundation

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‘Care Leavers in Focus’ is a 3-year project which explored the perspectives of care-experienced young people of different ages across England and Wales. The project used photography and storytelling as a tool for advocacy and self-expression, as participants reflected on their perspective of what they need from relevant support services and providers.

The insights from these photography and digital storytelling workshops were developed into new co-produced resources which have been distributed across England and Wales to help strengthen how care-leavers are supported. These resources were tested with a variety of care experienced young people, service providers from local authorities and charities, and other expert stakeholders.

In England alone, approximately 10,000 young people leave care each year, many of whom have experienced challenging upbringings; encountering abuse, neglect and family breakdown. Research shows that they are over-represented in national statistics on disadvantage and social exclusion, and often face barriers that affect their transition into independent living when they leave the care system.

These young people may require additional support from services in living skills such as budgeting, applying for work, education or training, building support networks, accessing local services and housing. This project aims to influence these services to better reflect the experiences of those who may rely on them.

PhotoVoice created a consortium of partners with organisations which specialise in supporting care-experienced young people across different geographical areas of the UK.

Working with the National Youth Advocacy Service (NYAS), the Drive Forward Foundation, Catch 22 and The Care Leavers Association, PhotoVoice delivered five sets of workshops with different age groups of young people currently in care, or who have transitioned out of care (aged 25+).

The workshops explored views and insights into being in and leaving care, with participants sharing and identifying ways to advocate for issues that matter to them. Participants built a range of skills and improved their confidence through photography and involvement at different stages throughout the duration of the project.

The second phase of the CLiF project brought together the combined expertise of care-experienced young people, Local Authorities across England and Wales, and key organisations working to support people in and out of care, to draw upon the insights from the workshops and explore opportunities for change and a strengthened model of service provision. Through a programme of group discussions, training and outreach activities, the project developed and tested new resources that help inform relevant services about how they can better respond to the needs of care-leavers.PhotoVoice worked with CliF partners to distribute these new resources across the UK, and evaluate their impact of supporting better experiences for care-experienced young people they journey through preparation, transition and onwards into independent adult life.

These resources were rooted in the principles of co-design based on lived experience, and are now being widely used across England and Wales. To date, over 80 local authorities have received and are using the resources.

In each of the five workshops in Phase 1, participants produced captioned images with advocacy messages and digital stories, which were shared at local exhibitions and celebrations.

Feedback from organisations which work with Care Leavers suggest many of the complex needs of care-experienced young people continue to go unrecognised by some support services, resulting in many young people transitioning out of care lacking the emotional wellbeing, and/or life skills to recognise and realise their rights, and the support services available to them.

The participant-led development of new materials and resources to support others in similar situations, provided an important opportunity for participants to make sense of their experiences for future safeguarding, and providing ways for  service providers and practitioners to support them better in their preparation for successful transitions into independent living.

The new resources developed from the insights of participants have influenced the provision of services for care-experienced young people across England and Wales, ensuring that their voices are central in championing changes to the support that they receive.

“It makes people open up and see different things, it shows what’s different in other people’s minds.”

“It gave me confidence to show things that I feel are important and to show others that my voice counts.”

“PhotoVoice, the course was actually enlightening. I feel as though I was at school again where I was learning something new. It was exciting to contribute a few hours of my time to discuss my experience and my advocacy work of me being in care, and having other people on the project really was interesting because we are all so different and bring different ideas and concepts to the table.”

“An experience I didn’t know I needed.”

“It was very helpful and much more easy to talk since you are with people who have gone through what you have.”

The ‘In Focus’ toolkit is available online.

It contains a range of resources for young people and service providers, including:

  • a shared vocabulary, mapping young people’s priorities with legislation and Ofsted inspection requirements
  • activities which use peer-generated materials to more effectively communicate with care experienced young people
  • principles of good consultation and feedback

Images from Care Leavers in Focus were displayed in the lobby of the Esmee Fairbairn foundation, who funded the project.

Header Image: © T 2020 | PhotoVoice | The CLiF Partnership | ‘Care Leavers in Focus’ | England

“Problems come and go like the clouds but things can stay on paperwork a long time. They should listen more and write less.”

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