Care leavers’ House Project opens door to education and employment

Care leavers in Oxfordshire have successfully supported each other into college and employment through an innovative shared housing scheme – the House Project.

Their achievements are revealed this week by Oxfordshire County Council, which has been overseeing the scheme since July 2018.

The House Project has involved 25 young people living in shared accommodation, in Oxford, where they have been able to learn and develop as a group – an important step in their transition from being cared for – to living independently.

The majority of current housemates are studying at college, with a third in employment. This is considered a major success by the project organisers in the current COVID-19 impacted economic climate.

Councillor Steve Harrod, Oxfordshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Children and Family Services, said: “I’m immensely proud of what these care leavers have achieved despite their difficult life experiences and the current harsh economic environment.

“Like all good parents, the council wants to give young people the very best chance in life. We listen and aim to respond to feedback positively. They told us they wanted an opportunity to develop through peer to peer learning and interaction, rather than living in isolation. Previously, the majority of care leavers moved into one bedroom accommodation social housing.”

Housemate Ibrahim Mohammed (pictured) had a difficult start in life, separated from his family in Sudan. He has found stability and comfort from the shared-living experience, enrolling at Blackbird Leys Campus, City College, studying in readiness to take GCSEs. Ibrahim is also gaining valuable job experience, working as a chef at KFC.

Ibrahim said: “The project has supported and helped me to do a lot of things. I am very happy in my house and enjoying my studies. I have freedom and if I need help with anything, I call my House Project worker.”

The group also meet regularly to complete their accredited House Project in a community environment, hosted by West Oxford Community Centre and Donnington Doorstep. They are studying a number of modules, designed to prepare them for live independently, to be tenancy ready.

The Oxfordshire House Project is one of five pilots in the UK, independently evaluated and reported on by York University. Funding comes from the Department for Education.

York University’s report included young people’s views, which suggested that forming a close-knit community offered a sense of collective identity. The community also offered access to an immediate support network to reduce the risk of isolation and loneliness that can accompany care leavers as they move from care to independent adulthood.

David Brookes, Chair of Trustees at the National House Project, said: “The report provides evidence that the House Project approach is working and is of great benefit to young people leaving care. It is great to see so many young people’s voices being represented. It is heartening to hear the project being described as ‘life changing’ and ‘like a dream’.”

Further information about the House Project is available online at www.thehouseproject.org

A care leaver is someone aged 16 - 25 who has spent a certain amount of time in the care of a local authority around their sixteenth birthday.