Cumbria County Council has around 80 Homestays carers across Cumbria who support young people on their journey to independent living.
The Homestays initiative, which launched in Cumbria in 2012, offers a home environment for young people, aged 16-25, who are in need of support for a variety of reasons; including leaving foster care or due to an adoption breakdown.
To be considered for a Homestays placement, young people must be in education, training or employment.
As most young people tend to stay in Homestays placements for up to three years there is an urgent need to recruit 30 more carers for the initiative during the next 12 months.
Mary Grace Brown and her husband Rob Chapman have been Homestays carers for five years and in that time they have helped four young people on their journey to independence. Mary Grace said: “I have a background in child protection social work and Rob is a mental health social worker. I have always wanted to foster and when I thought I was going to be made redundant it seemed like an opportunity to do it. We went through the whole fostering approval programme and then I found out I wasn’t going to be made redundant and, in fact, I was promoted!
“At that stage we heard about Homestays and realised it was a perfect alternative to fostering for us as it allowed us to continue working.”
As Homestays carers Rob and Mary Grace pledge around 10 hours of their time each week to supporting the young person who’s living with them. Mary Grace said: “I see a big part of our role as role modelling appropriate behaviour on a day-to-day basis, sharing our values with them, and preparing them for independent life. This could be through teaching life skills, such as doing laundry or shopping on a budget, or by supporting them emotionally and simply asking how their day was.”
After helping four young people in care make the difficult transition to independent living, Mary Grace said they couldn’t be happier with the choice they made: “We’ve become really attached to all of the young people who’ve come through our door and it has been a pleasure. They’ve all been very different; some keen to be independent and others more needy but they have all brought something different to our lives.
“The joy for us is to watch them grown and navigate the world and know that we were part of that.”
Team Manager, Homestays & Fostering Supervision & Support, Margaret Brennand, said: “As one of our Homestays carers you have the opportunity to support a young person on their road to independence; helping them to learn new skills and reach their potential, while all the time being fully supported by our Homestays advisors.
“With a time commitment of seven to 10 hours each week, many people find this a more flexible alternative to fostering, as they can continue to work full time, while still having the satisfaction of knowing they are helping a young person take their first steps to independent living in a safe, caring environment.”
Interested in becoming a Homestays provider?
Ideally you are a person who understands and likes teenagers and has an insight into the unique pressures and needs of young people in care. If so then Homestays could be for you:
- Providers go through a formal approval process where DBS checks are sought. The process takes between 5-8 months.
- You will be required to offer 7-10 hours of your time to supporting a young person in developing independent living skills such as budgeting, laundry and cooking.
- You must have a spare room in your home, though where a Homestays carer is unable to accommodate a young person they may still be considered to offer support for a young person who is living independently, in their own accommodation.
- Homestays carers are offered the opportunity to develop their skills through the Fostering Service training programme and to be involved in support groups.
- Carers are also fully supported by a dedicated Homestays Advisor.