Around 12,500 young people aged 16 or above leave care to move into independent or semi-independent living every year.
For care leavers, this transition occurs at a much younger age than their peers and typically they get far less support than other young people and this can have a major impact on their lives. According to the National Audit Office, 41% of care leavers were not in education, employment or training in 2013-14 compared with 15% of all 19-year-olds.
When a person leaves care, their local authority must support them until they are 21 years old – offering support including accommodation support, assistance with employment, education and training, as well as a personal adviser and a pathway plan.
One of our newest investees Caring for Communities and People (CCP Charity) based in Gloucestershire works in partnership with local authorities to provide supported accommodation services for vulnerable young people aged 16-25 years old – many of whom are leaving the care system.
Originally set up in 1989 in response to rising cases of homeless young people in Cheltenham, CCP’s vision is to transform the lives of children, young people and families by preventing homelessness and strengthening families.
Today, the charity is one Gloucestershire’s foremost social care providers, delivering what its CEO Cordell Ray, terms as ‘the gold standard’ of accommodation based services.
Cordell says their services offer far more than a roof over people’s heads, they act as pseudo parents for young people, giving them essential life skills, training, education, moral guidance and support to enable them to make a successful transition to future independent living.
Key to making successful transitions is ensuring sustainable, high quality housing and services and this is where investment from SASC is playing a major part.
Currently, CCP offers 69 units of supported housing, with most homes rented through private landlords. For most young people the charity helps, it is their first home out of foster care – they decorate their own rooms and make a huge emotional investment in it – it marks the start of the rest of their life. If the rental contract comes to an end for any reason, or they are asked to leave, it can cause major disruptions, upheaval and setbacks, and this was something CCP was keen to prevent.
The charity needed permanent homes and wanted to move to a model of home ownership. Cordell says having control over the property is critical as it enables the charity to provide true stability for people and generate the best results.
Moving towards a new model – our loan
This is where SASC has stepped in. We invested £2.85m in CCP through our Community Investment Fund (CIF) to help the charity purchase properties and support their work. The loan will enable the charity to expand its housing services and provide the much-needed stable accommodation for young people leaving care.
SASC has structured the loan to minimise investment risk for the charity and support its ongoing risk.
In April, CCP began to purchase properties with these funds, enabling the charity to become more sustainable and provide certainty of tenancy and consistently high-quality accommodation.
Ownership will also enable the charity to explore the provision of move-on accommodation for their beneficiaries, something they were unable to consider before the loan.
For CCP, the loan will be transformative. It will ensure property is totally under their control, enabling them to give their young people the home security they crave. It will also give the charity more financial security in the long term and assets.
CCP plans to purchase 16 properties over an 18-month period in areas where there are good employment prospects for young people and transport links, to ease the transition towards eventual independent living.
Home ownership during Covid-19
CCP had just begun to purchase properties using the SASC loan when Covid-19 struck. The charity was far enough along on its first property for it to go through, but its other purchases had to go on hold.
However, with news that estate agents are returning to work, Cordell is very optimistic that they will be able to swiftly resume their purchasing.
On a positive note, the lockdown has not impacted the charity’s business too greatly. Many of CCPs contracts are with local authorities who have a duty of care to accommodate young people and commission CCP to provide supported accommodation services. Demand for such services are also increasing.
Of course, as most of the services CCP provides are client facing, the team at CCP has had to adapt – they are using more technology to communicate, they are wearing PPE at work and staff are upping the level of safeguarding and checks to ensure the young people they accommodate are safe.
The charity has also launched an Emergency Food Share appeal and has been rallying volunteers who have been delivering food parcels to the local communities.
Cordell is optimistic about the future. He says that one good thing coming out of this pandemic is the fact the conversation has focused on the importance of public services like the NHS, Education and Policing. He highlights that 10 years of austerity, which reduced services for young people, had a major affect on young people in terms of their moral compass and overall mental health & wellbeing, together with issues such as gaining employment and increased knife crime amongst other issues. He wonders if post Covid-19, this will become be a key area for future government investment.
You can read a piece by Cordell about his experience of taking social investment in Charity Financials magazine here.