Oxfordshire care leavers launch new mentoring pilot

Young people in care in Oxfordshire are to benefit from a new peer mentorship programme – launching during National Care Leavers Week (26 Oct - 1 Nov) – created and run by one of the county’s homegrown social enterprises.

Oxfordshire Care Leavers Association (OCLA) is a local social enterprise, supported by Oxfordshire County Council which provides children’s social care services in the county. OCLA formed in 2017 after a group of care leavers decided they wanted to use their experiences and passion to help others in care in the county.

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.

Megan Macleod, Director of OCLA, said: “We are really excited to launch our second project as OCLA. After collaborating with Oxfordshire County Council and The Care Leaders Organisation to develop partnerships and work placement opportunities with some key local businesses, we are now ready to pilot an exciting new programme.”

Fellow Director, Chantelle Chamberlain, added: “Peer mentoring is a powerful tool that can inspire young people and encourage them to connect with others. It works because the advice and support on offer comes from people they know will understand them as they have had some of the same experiences.”

Councillor Steve Harrod, Oxfordshire County Council Cabinet Member for Children and Family Services, said:

“I’m immensely proud of what our care leavers achieve despite their difficult life experiences. OCLA is a wonderful example of the innovation and kindness that care experienced young people can bring, helping us improve our support for the children and young people we care for.”

The programme will begin by matching five young people aged 13-19 with five older care leavers who have volunteered their time to share and support those at an earlier stage in the care system.

Megan said: “We have worked hard to make sure we have all the procedures, policies, training and support in place for both our mentors and mentees, because we know that older care leavers will be affected by the experiences they hear about.

“We are always moved by how many people who have been in care are wanting to help others who are also in the care system.”

OCLA’s peer mentorship programme will begin recruiting mentors and mentees this week; and on completion of the pilot stage in 2021, its ambition is then to expand this programme to offer more support and opportunities for both.

It is also developing some training to help care leavers with independent living skills.

“We have lots of ideas and ambition,” says Megan. “So, if anyone would like to get involved or support our work, please get in touch.”

For more information about OCLA’s work or to follow this project, visit: www.oxfordshirecareleaverassociation.co.uk