This week Cumbria County Council is showcasing the achievements of its care leavers around the county, in an effort to encourage all of its care leavers to aim high, as part of this year’s ‘reach for the sky’ theme during National Care Leavers’ Week (October 24th to 31st).
A total of 95 per cent of Cumbria’s care leavers are in education, employment or training, with 15 care experienced young people currently attending university.
Earlier this year seven care leavers from Cumbria graduated from university, with one gaining a Masters qualification and two more achieving first class degrees.
Carlisle’s Matthew Peacock, 18, is one young care leaver who has not been afraid to ‘reach for the sky’, overcoming many setbacks to start a degree course at Cumbria University last month.
He said: “I went to live with my foster carers when I was 12 and Secondary school was a mixed experience for me. Although I enjoyed going to school, I was bullied for a long time. Some days it was difficult when I was being bullied but I wasn’t going to let it stop me doing well.
“If I could give one bit of advice to children in care now at school, I would say don’t think you are different to others. Being in care isn’t all that different to living with your parents and you can still do well.”
Barrow’s Corey Love, 19, is another Cumbria care leaver who, despite going into care at 12, has ‘reached for the sky’ and is now using his skills and life experience to help other young people in Cumbria as a youth worker.
He said: “Since leaving care I have been on one massive adventure. I started out working for a Christian organisation which specialises in youth and schools’ work. This organisation is called Pais and we work with young people to try and help them see there is a hope for the future.
“I have done this for three years and after my first year with the skills and lessons I learned they asked me to lead the team, so I now lead three youth workers doing assemblies and lunch club and connecting with young people and children all over the town.
“I get the opportunity to share with them that your future isn’t defined by your past but it’s defined by your hopes for the future. I cannot wait to see where I am going to go with helping in the church running youth clubs and encouraging the church guys to push for a better future. This is my story and it could be anyone’s but you have to push for a better future for yourself.”
Like many care leavers, Matthew and Corey said that they would not have been able to achieve their dreams without support.
Along with the council’s leaving care team, foster carers are often an integral part of this support, with 95 per cent of young people who are fostered in the county choosing to remain with their carers when they turn 18, as part of our ‘staying put’ arrangements that enable care leavers to remain with their former foster carers if they are in further education, training or employment.
Cllr Anne Burns, Cabinet Member for Children’s Services, said: “National Care Leavers’ Week is an ideal opportunity for us to shine a light, not just on the remarkable achievements of our care leavers, but on the essential role that our foster carers play in helping young people across Cumbria to pursue their dreams and achieve their potential.
“From continuing to offer them a stable home whilst they train, study or seek employment, to helping them make a transition to independent living; the support our foster carers offer is invaluable to young people leaving the care system.”
If you think you have what it takes to foster visit cumbria.gov.uk/fostering for more information or contact us today on 0303 333 1216.