Young People & Children 1st (formerly known as Children 1st West Berkshire) changes lives: a bold claim, but true. Imagine you are 18 and leaving a care home with no adult support whatsoever. Many care leavers find themselves in this situation and this transition into independent living is exceptionally hard with many falling quickly into negative lifestyles, homelessness, crime, teenage pregnancy, unemployment. The official outcome statistics for care leavers are shocking and saddening.
With first-hand experience of long-term fostering and the care abyss faced at age 18, John & Patsy Stone set up the charity in 2008. Scroll down seven years to 2015, and the charity has one house established, Cornerstone, and the plan is to have a further two houses soon. Four young people currently live in a comfortable, homely family-style home. A Live-in adult mentor provides day-to-day support, ensuring a safe, respectful, harmonious & pleasant living environment. Support workers help with emotional support, job searches, benefits etc. . A large team of dedicated volunteers, including very active Trustees who run the charity day-to-day, bring a vast array of skills, experience and limitless enthusiasm for our project and have been nominated for the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service 2015.
We strongly believe that our young people need to be actively occupied. Within a week or two, the young person will be volunteering, in paid work or back into education.
It is important to our success that we recognise and actively support the needs of the individual with a tailored 1-2-1 lifeskills training programme and support for emotional and behavioural issues. Lifeskills training covers money management, budget shopping & cooking, self-awareness and presentation, interview skills, CV writing, literacy and any other support needs e.g. swimming lessons, Guide Association. Social activities with young volunteers help their social communication skills & show them the fun side of life. An allotment gives opportunities for hard physical, outdoor activity and delicious, fresh, ‘free’ and healthy produce for budget cooking lessons.
Our ultimate aim is for them to leave us as mature, confident, happy individuals armed with the lifeskills to live independently and contribute positively to the wider society. We have had some remarkable successes, though sadly a few others are unable or unwilling to accept the opportunities we offer. Our current residents are testament to the success of the project with two moving onto good universities in Sept., one studying for IGCSEs locally and one highly regarded in his work environment and on the brink of independent living. So, Young People & Children 1st really does change lives and our best advocates are our residents who have bright futures.
If you are interested in volunteering, donating or supporting our project to help homeless teens in other ways, please visit our website www.children1stwestberkshire.co.uk or call 01635-500849 or email [email protected].