Cumbria County Council is looking for people with a spare bedroom who can offer short-term placements to young people, aged 16 to 21, who are leaving foster care and looking to live more independently.
By welcoming a young person into your home, you can provide emotional support and help them learn the everyday, practical skills they will need for adult life.
With a time commitment up to 10 hours each week, it can be a flexible alternative to mainstream fostering, while still giving providers the satisfaction of knowing they are helping a young person take their first steps to independence.
Carlisle’s Teresa Boyd, who works full-time as a leaving care personal adviser, has been a Homestays provider for 20-year-old Lauren, for two years.
Teresa said: “I would definitely encourage others to think about getting involved with Homestays; it is such a fabulous service for young care leavers and I think if more families were away of the scheme, they would enjoy it just as much as I have.
“In a previous role I worked with care leavers in a residential home helping them to make the transition to independence and felt I had something to offer. But because I work full-time I find that Homestays works well for me and I really enjoy it.
“Since being with me Lauren has completed an apprenticeship in childcare and is now starting a higher apprenticeship and I think having her Homestays placement has helped with that, as she hasn’t had to worry about finding accommodation or paying bills, she’s been able to focus of her work.”
Lauren, whose name has been changed to protect her identity, moved in with Teresa when as a teenager, said: “Homestays has allowed me to learn valuable life skills, while progressing my career in childcare and I would recommend Homestays to anyone as a stepping stone to independent living.”
Teresa added: “I feel I’ve also got a lot from having Lauren staying with me, she’s part of the family now and gets on well with my wider family. She’s a really passionate, driven, enjoyable young person to have around and it has been a real pleasure to watch her develop.”
The council is also looking for people who can offer outreach support to a young person who is already living independently in their own accommodation.
Carlisle’s Ray Howie became a Homestays outreach worker last year after fostering for more than a decade. He supports two young men who live independently in their own accommodation.
Ray said: “I’d encourage anyone to get involved with Homestays. Whether you have a spare room and want to offer Homestays lodgings or want to do outreach work, then don’t think you are just thrown in the deep end, you’re not. The training and support is very good and there is always someone on the end of the phone if you have a question.
“You don’t know what these young people have been through in their lives but if you can pick them up and dust them off and set them in the right direction and help them to achieve what they want to achieve, it is really rewarding.
“I am 72 so don’t think because you are retired you are past it, you’re not! Anyone can do Homestays if you are sympathetic, understanding and a good listener.”
As one of the council’s Homestays providers you will receive support from a dedicated Homestays adviser, weekly payments of £165 (or £80 for outreach) to cover the costs of hosting a young person and ongoing training and support for the duration of the placement.
Councillor Anne Burns, cabinet member for children’s services, said: “Our Homestays providers offer a vital stepping-stone for young people to transition from the care system to independent living. We are keen to hear from anyone who would like to be involved in this vital and rewarding work.”
Cumbria County Council is hosting an online event on Thursday from 7pm to 8pm for people to find out more.
Visit cumbria.gov.uk/fostering or call 0303 333 1216.