“You’ve got nothing to be ashamed of to have mental health issues or past trauma to be resolved, because you are so strong to have got to here.”
– Care experienced Champion, speaking to other Care Leavers, January 2021
The aim of the National Leaving Care Benchmarking Forum (NLCBF) is to stimulate and disseminate best practice on a national scale to improve outcomes for the nation’s care leavers.
The National Leaving Care Benchmarking Forum (NLCBF) has a large and active membership of 120 Local authority leaving care teams. At the heart of the forum is the Young Person’s Benchmarking Forum (YPBMF), with the voice of care leavers shaping the direction of the forum and integral to the forum’s events and work. Our activities are focused around three areas
- Membership – We hold regular specialist peer learning and development events for Leaving Care Managers and Practitioners. The membership website offers access to regular policy and practice updates, peer enquiry forms, and leaving care resources. Care leavers from members Local Authorities are invited to be part of the YPBMF which meets regularly to identify Care Leavers’ priorities and advocate for these
- National influence – Influencing Leaving Care policy and practice through a close working relationships with government departments, HMPPS, Ofsted, and other leaving care organisations.
- Research – Promoting and supporting the development of the latest research around leaving care.
The aim of the forum is to stimulate and disseminate best practice on a national scale to improve outcomes for care experienced young people.
NLCBF and Catch22
The Forum is run by the charity Catch22 and funded through membership fees from Local Authorities. The Forum has a steering group of 9 Local Authority representatives who work closely with the staff team at Catch22 to shape the development of the Forum.
Impact of NLCBF
- 10 Local Authorities joined the Forum, bringing the membership to 120 or 80% of English Local Authorities
- 55 sessions or workshops run for members, across 13 events. All events were virtual due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- ‘Maintaining Relationships in Lockdown’ workshops and resource created with 35 Local Authorities
- First PA of the Year awards held
- Video and audio recordings of events available to members
- Consultation around the Member’s website completed and improvements have been started
- Peer Learning group for 10 Local Authorities about employment launched
- Hosted speakers at events from DfE, HMPPS, Ofsted, MHCLG, Care Leavers Covenant etc.
- Keep Care Leavers Connected campaign –Key player in campaign with Care Leavers’ and Local Authority views fed into DfE
- YPBMF members worked with Ofsted, and NLCBF were part of regular Ofsted Care Leavers consultative group
- Youth Justice Board engagement with YPBMF
- Hosted a Roundtable with the Children’s Minister with Esmée Fairbairn Foundation around Care Leavers and employment
- Unregulated Accommodation consultation submitted
- Shared latest research at events and via website including Coram Voice, ‘What Makes Life Good.’
- Consultation with care leavers and professionals around digital poverty, Universal Credit, support for young parents etc.
- Supported care leavers to engage with research opportunities
- Follow up workshop on Local Offer toolkit for managers
Young People’s Benchmarking Forum
“This is my first time at the YPBMF and I am truly inspired to see so many care leavers working towards providing a better service for young people in and leaving care!”
– Care leaver
This year, the Young People’s Benchmarking Forum (YPBMF) has worked in creative ways to ensure that care leavers have been involved in planning our events, reports and outputs and importantly that care leavers’ voices and experiences are heard:
- Lockdown videos – In the early stages of the pandemic YPBMF Champions and NLCBF Care Experienced sessional workers shared experiences and created videos to inform and educate other care leavers and professionals. Videos were shared on our website, Twitter and Instagram and received lots of positive feedback. Key videos and opinions were shared with government to inform decisions around funding and initiatives.
- Hosting virtual events -YPBMF started the beginning of this year’s events creating pre-recorded messages but, as the year progressed, our NLCBF Sessional workers became experts in running engaging online events for care leavers, practitioners and managers.
- Care Leavers’ celebration event –This year our champions and sessional workers hosted a series of Care Leaver Celebration events including the NLCBF Best Project Workshop videos which were watched by over 1,400 people following the live event.
- Cross Ministerial Board for Care Leavers –Ralph, an NLCBF Sessional worker presented at the first ever Cross Ministerial Board for Care Leavers about financial support for care leavers.
- YPBMF sessions at Practitioner and Manager’s events – The YPBMF input into practitioner and manager events continues to be as inspiring as ever.
- Youth Justice Board – YPBMF Champions presented to the Justice Minister and continue to be involved with the Youth Justice Board.
- Ofsted– YPBMF Champions have worked with Ofsted to share views on Inspections and Unregulated Accommodation.
- LGBTQ+ Network for Care Leavers –YPBMF Champions have been involved in promoting this network
- Digital Poverty Consultation –Consultation with care leavers fed into the Keep Care Leavers Connected campaign and was shared with the DfE, Ofsted. This led to the extension of digital provision from the DfE. Care Leavers’ views were also shared with businesses including O2 and BT via Catch 22.
- Universal Credit Consultation –Consultation with care leavers around the impact of the £20/week Universal Credit uplift was shared with DfE.
- Support for Care-Experienced Parents -Care experienced professionals from Warwickshire and The Baby Box Project inspired care leavers and professionals to give increased focus to the support needed for care experienced young parents. This approach is now being replicated in a number of other areas.
- YPBMF Impact Plan – An independent impact plan gave a really positive account of the impact of the work that has taken place over the last two years whilst setting out some clear and exciting recommendations for the forum as a whole.
“The magic ingredients to YPBMF – just care – a lot of thought and care is put into what YPBMF do, and you feel that massively from their presentation, their ice breaker, feedback after and thank yous.
“I am trying to engage lot of our young people into YPBMF. I always say it’s an opportunity to get out of your local area and be introduced to other local authority young people. To be fair lot of it is fun and inspirational to come back with new ideas of what I want to see in my area.”
– Care Leavers, YPBMF Impact Plan
For the first time, we made video and audio recordings of sessions for members. During this year there were:
- 836 Views of event session videos
- 78 plays of audio content from event sessions
- an additional 1783 video views of content created for the Young Person’s Celebration event –including inspirational speakers, Best Projects and ‘Chef of the Year’ competition videos.
Partnerships, challenges and opportunities
- The Forum continues to work closely with the Department for Education, Ofsted, HMPPS, MHCLG, Youth Justice Board.
- We work closely with Leaving Care Organisations including Become, Care Leavers Covenant, Coram Voice etc.
- The Forum are active members of the Children In Care and Care Leavers Alliance and LGTBTQ+ Youth in Care Network
- Esmée Fairbairn funded the Keep Care Leavers Connected campaign and the LA Peer Learning Group.
- COVID-19 – We have had to completely change our delivery model to online events and interactions. COVID-19 has also led to significant challenges for care leavers and Local Authorities and the forum has adapted its work in response.
- Team changes – Two longstanding NLCBF team members left in the last year and the new team is now in place and getting established.
- Financial sustainability – Hybrid events will add additional costs and we are exploring options to offset this.
- Additional value for members – we have seen a greater number of local authorities and higher numbers of people engaging with virtual events –particularly our Practitioner Events -We are planning to offer hybrid events which will add value to the membership offer.
- Additional events and networking opportunities – the flexibility of online meetings has meant we can offer one-off events like the Festive workshop. We will make the most of this.
- Care Review – we have started to engage with the Care Review and will continue to ensure the voices and priorities of care leavers are represented.
- Provide high-quality events, sharing good practice around areas identified by Care Leavers and Local Authorities.
- Develop hybrid events, extending value and reach of the Forum.
- Establish a Participation Workers Network
- Deliver a Peer Learning Group for 10 Local Authorities around care leavers and employment and share learning.
- Offer a Local Offer development day
- Develop the members’ website, in line with members’ feedback.
- Develop the forum’s approach to promoting Diversity and Inclusion.
- Continue to engage with Government departments to amplify the voice of Care Leavers.
- YPBMF to host an event that highlights Care Leavers’ priorities.
- Engage with the Care Review.
- Respond to government consultations, including Ofsted’s work on unregulated accommodation standards.
- Work with leaving care organisations and the Alliance to offer a collective voice on key issues.
- Raise the profile of the Forum through external facing website, social media and setting up a podcast.
- Showcase latest leaving care research.
- Build relationships with researchers in this area.
- Engage with Care Leavers and Local Authorities to collect and share insights around key issues.
“I’m fairly new to leaving care so it was an eye opener. The community around the sector is great. Some specific examples of
really good practice will be fed up to senior management and it’s great to be so up to the minute on policy changes.”
– Manager’s Event, March 2021