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06 December 2017

Urgent need for more Homestays carers in Cumbria

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.

Retired foster carers, Eileen and Richard Binstead, who live near Workington, have been Homestays carers for four years. Eileen said:

“We fostered for 16 years and then decided to have a break and go back as Homestays carers, which we felt would be more flexible for us.

“Since then we’ve had six young people come to live with us and have found it very rewarding helping older children coming into care to prepare for independent living.

“We’ve raised three sons of our own and I wouldn’t have liked to see them embark on an independent life without some help, so I can see how essential this support can be for young people in care.

“I think our experience as parents and of fostering gave us a very good grounding to take on Homestays caring and it’s worked well for us.”

The couple are currently Homestays carers for 19-year-old Angel, who’s been living with them since she was 16.  Eileen said: “It’s been very gratifying to see how she’s developed in her time with us. She suffered a lot of rejection in her life and it was very difficult at first trying to connect with her. 

“But, with our support and reassurance, she has flourished and achieved so much; completing a college course and recently starting her first full-time job.  She’s an excellent example of what Homestays can help young people achieve.”

Angel is also very positive about her Homestays experience. She said: “I was placed with Eileen and Richard when my adoption broke down and I have never looked back. I now see them as my family because they give me the support that I never received when I was adopted and they have encouraged me to take on new things. ”

Eileen and Angel

Margaret Sharratt, a grandmother from Barrow who works part time, has been a Homestays carer for 18 months. She said:

“I heard about Homestays from my sister, who is a Homestays carer, and as I live on my own and have a spare room I thought it was something I’d also like to do.

“I currently have a young lady living with me who is 18. When she first moved in she was quite nervous with me but within a month I began to see a huge change in her - she seems much happier and is quite a ‘home body’. She also started a college course in September and is doing very well and has made lots of friends.

“She’s gradually become like part of the family and it’s so rewarding to see her settled and happy.”

Margaret Sharratt

Terry Assouad, who also lives in Barrow, worked in a residential home for young people before she retired and had also previously fostered. She’s been a Homestays carer for five years. She said:

“After I retired I still wanted to do something with my time and a former colleague told me about Homestays which was just being set up. I’ve had six young people live with me through Homestays but at the moment I am a Homestays support worker for two young people who live in their own accommodation.

“The support I offer varies but can include taking them shopping or to medical appointments or going for a drive out to the Lakes for a meal. I see my role as being something of a surrogate grandmother.”

She often stays in touch with the young people she meets through Homestays: “One of the young women who lived with me has gone onto attend university and now has a partner and child of her own. As a Homestays carer you hope that you make a difference in their lives and it is nice to feel that I am still doing something worthwhile.”

Terry Assouad

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.”

Mary Grace and Rob

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. 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.

To find out more about Homestays email homestays.cumbria@cumbria.gov.uk or go to www.cumbria.gov.uk/childrensservices/homestays

Cumbria County Council has around 80 Homestays carers across Cumbria who support young people on their journey to independent living.