Keep up to date with all the latest news!
In November, Virtual School Kent was very excited to support two young people, Bradley and Chelsea, take part in the Whitehall Takeover, a month-long event organised by the Office of the Children’s Commissioner.Read More
Before the Takeover began, Anne Longfield, Children’s Commissioner for England said, “Children in care are this month taking over the Government and experiencing Whitehall’s corridors of power first-hand.” Young people from around the country got to spend a day in London with Government Ministers or officials finding out what it’s like to make decisions at the highest level.
Bradley shadowed Kent MP Kelly Tolhurst, the Minister for Small Business, Consumers and Corporate Responsibility at the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, whilst Virtual School Kent Apprentice, Chelsea got to experience decision making at the Department for Education with Lord Agnew, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for the School System.
Both of the young people were able to share their experiences and fresh ideas with key decision makers and see how central government works.
Bradley enjoyed the opportunity to receive a personal tour of Parliament (including the roof garden!), watch a key Brexit debate from the public gallery in the House of Commons and accompany the Minister to debates and speeches.
Chelsea loved listening to (and taking part in!) meetings about adoption and faith schools. She also had the chance, alongside other young people in care, to share her views and experiences about not just education, but a range of issues that face Children in Care and Care Leavers with Damian Hinds, Secretary of State for Education, Nadhim Zahawi, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Children and Families and Anne Longfield herself.
The Takeover Challenge was a great way to get young people’s voices heard at the highest levels and give them experiences they otherwise wouldn’t receive.
Want to get involved in opportunities like this? Contact us via the website!
We always love hearing your stories, poems and experiences of being in care and, with your permission, sharing these on this website.Read More
You can contribute to Kent Cares Town by emailing VSK_Participation@kent.gov.uk or sending something to VSK, Kent County Council, Worrall House, 30 Kings Hill Avenue, Kings Hill, ME19 4AE.
However, you can also share your thoughts with young people around the country by sending your work to IMO – write, speak, share.
IMO is a voice for teenagers in care and for care leavers. It is somewhere you can share stories, experiences and achievements, get and give advice, and find loads of great free stuff! They share blogs, vlogs, podcasts and more from teens in care, and they link Children in Care Councils in England together around common campaigns. They also share opportunities for care leavers, like jobs and apprenticeships.
IMO was created by the Children’s Commissioner for England and a group of teens with care experience. If you would like to join this network and have a say in how IMO is run, get in touch with IMO!
What IMO says, “Whether you’re in care, leaving care, or a care leaver, IMO is here to represent you and your views. We need you to share your stories, experiences and advice with us, to help other teenagers and to make sure decision-makers know what you want. If you want to have your voice heard, send us stuff!”
So why not take a look at the website and see if there’s anything you can contribute to IMO (and Kent Cares Town!).
Moving on from Social Services accommodation is a big step, and you might have concerns about finding somewhere to live. Your Personal Advisor (PA) will be able to go through your options with you.Read More
You might have registered with Kent Homechoice and be hoping for an offer of Council or Housing Association accommodation. Unfortunately, there are many more people on the waiting list than there are homes, so you might not be offered anything. However, there are other options.
Private renting is a popular choice. Many landlords and letting agencies advertise their properties online. It might be more affordable to rent a room in a shared house, rather than renting a flat or house by yourself.
Spareroom.co.uk is a popular website, which also gives advice and information for people who are looking for a flatshare. Many letting agencies also have shared houses to let. In shared accommodation, the cost of gas, electricity, water, TV Licence, Council Tax, maybe even Wifi is shared with the other tenants, and you pay less rent because you share.
When looking for accommodation, think about what you would like to live near to: your workplace or college/university? Do you need to attend regular medical appointments? Perhaps you have friends and family who you would like to live near to? It is important to find out how much you should expect to pay for rent in the area you plan to live in. Rents can be high in Kent (although not as high as in most areas of London).
If the rent is too high, is there somewhere nearby that is cheaper? Maybe even a short bus journey or drive away? Whether you will be paying your rent out of your wages, or by claiming Housing Benefit/Universal Credit, you need to be sure that you can afford it before you sign the tenancy agreement.
In Kent, the Local Housing Allowance (LHA) doesn’t cover the full monthly rent for most rental properties. This means that you will need to have some way of paying whatever is owed to your landlord after you have paid your Housing Benefit to them (“the shortfall”). As a care leaver, you are entitled to a higher rate of Housing Benefit up to the age of 22. This is helpful when you are looking for somewhere to live, but you will need to think about how you will pay your rent after the age of 22, when your benefit is reduced to Single Room Rate. There is a lot to think about, but your PA can advise you on issues around rent benefits and tenancy agreements, to help you decide what is best for you.
Many lettings agents ask for a guarantor. A guarantor is a person you know – usually a family member - who will be responsible for paying your rent, if you can’t (or don’t). A guarantor is usually a home owner, in employment, earning over a certain amount of money. Not everybody knows someone who they can ask to be their guarantor. Kent County Council has recognised this difficulty and has introduced a rent guarantor scheme. In certain circumstances, Kent County Council can act as a rent guarantor on behalf of a young person aged over 18, where there is no family member willing/able to do so. Your PA can give you information on the guarantor scheme.
Setting up a home is expensive, but Kent County Council can offer a Setting Up Home Allowance up to the value of £2,000.00, to buy essential items when you move into your own home. From 1st October 2018, additional financial support can be provided to you, to cover your first month’s rent, deposit, and letting agent fees, when moving into private rented accommodation. This is in addition to the £2,000.00 Setting Up Home Allowance. The Council also provides an option to put some or all the Setting Up Home Allowance into an adult ISA or Help to Buy scheme, to help promote your financial security, financial independence, and savings for future accommodation. This is something else that your PA can speak to you about.
Want to find out more about accommodation as a Care Leaver? Click here.
Making decisions about your future can be confusing whether you are in Year 11, Year 13 or considering a return to education or training after a break. Sixth form, college, university, apprenticeships, the world of work…the possibilities can sometimes seem endless! But help is at hand!Read More
Organised Open Days are one way to find out about college or university life and get a sense of what studying at different institutions is really like. You can discover more about your chosen courses and explore the college or university site at your own pace. They are a unique opportunity to find out exactly what you will study and how, explore the facilities and gain further information directly from the teachers, tutors and students already there!
Top Tips for attending Open Days
College and university Open Days are taking place throughout November and December. You can find College Open Day dates here and information about visiting Kent Universities here. Don’t worry if you miss an Open Day. You can often arrange to visit informally – just give the college or university a ring or visit their website to find out more.
Don’t forget there are also advisers in Virtual School Kent and the Care Leavers 18+ Service who can help you too. Talk to your Social Worker or PA who can put you in touch with the right person.
When you are in care, your corporate parents are the people who have responsibility for keeping you safe and looking after your wellbeing. They make sure your time in care is as positive as it can be, listen to your opinions and have your best interests at heart. They will help you if you have a problem and care about how you are feeling.
This isn’t just one person but a large group of different people. Your corporate parents include staff in Kent County Council like your social worker, personal adviser or independent reviewing officer, doctors, nurses and other health care workers, the police, staff in schools and colleges and others who work with and look after you. It also includes senior staff at Kent County Council. Some of these people are shown below.
Click on the images to find out more
“I want you to help me make Kent the best place for children and young people to grow up, learn, develop and achieve.”
“I think it is really important that children in care have people to speak for them, to support them and to promote their interests.”
“We need to ask ourselves ‘what is a good parent?’ and do the same as corporate parents as we would for our own children.”
“As a Corporate Parent, I want the absolute best for our children and young people, ensuring they get the right support to achieve their full potential.”
“The best thing about my job is seeing the great outcomes achieved by the amazing young people that I serve.”
“Our aim is to recruit and supervise the very best foster carers to promote a safe and secure environment for children and young people in Kent.”
I am the Corporate Director for Children, Young People and Education Services. I am really pleased that we have now brought together all services for children and young people in one department. As Director, it means that I have a legal responsibility to ensure safeguarding is everyone’s priority and to make sure that Kent County Council is the best parent we can be for all of the children in our care and for our care leavers.
I will want to meet as many of you as possible and to hear whether we are doing the best we can for you. You will always be my highest priority in this job. I have over 33 years experience in Education and Children’s Services and this includes working in East Sussex, the United States of America, Australia and most recently Norfolk. I am a father to three children and grandfather to one. When I was growing up, my parents were foster carers to other children so I have some knowledge of what life was like for children in care from that time.
I really do look forward to getting out and about to meet with as many young people as possible – I want you to help me make Kent the best place of children and young people to grow up, learn, develop and achieve.
I head the Virtual School Kent which is responsible for promoting and improving educational standards for Children in Care and Young Care Leavers of Kent. I am responsible for the coordination of services provided by VSK such as:
Supporting key colleagues (Social workers, Foster carers, Designated Teachers, School Leaders, School Governors, IROs and your Corporate Parents) in understanding their roles and responsibilities in promoting your education and ensuring that they have the highest aspirations for you.
Providing information advice and guidance for you and for the key professionals who may work with you.
Ensuring effective systems are in place to offer extra support.
Ensuring you are at the centre of what we do and that we listen. We do this through our Participation & Engagement Team who run the activity days, children in care councils (Super Council, OCYPC and YAC) and Kent Cares Town website to name but a few specific activities.
I had been working in Educational Leadership for many years specialising in improving school culture and inclusion. This led to some consultancy opportunities which led to me being selected as an educational behaviour expert in the National Behavioural Review within the Prime Ministers Delivery Unit (PMDU) and subsequently the National Strategies. This experience of Central and Local Government work coupled with my passion for inclusion and working with disadvantaged groups of young people inspired me to search for and eventually secure the post of Virtual School Headteacher.
That’s easy, it’s seeing the great outcomes achieved by the amazing young people that I serve. I especially look forward to days like the VSK Talent Showcase and the VSK Achievement Ceremonies in September and October.
I was a Welsh International Athlete. Well athlete is pushing it…. I used to throw the Discus and Hammer for Wales.
I am the Interim Head of Kent Fostering and Registered Manager. I directly line manage the centralised part of Kent Fostering which includes recruitment and assessment of foster carers. I am responsible for making the decision whether to approve new foster carers, including Connected Persons who have been assessed and presented to the Fostering Panel. I oversee the running of all Fostering Panels along with having overall management responsibility for the Specialist Fostering Team who cover Disability Fostering and the Sense of Belonging, along with the Fostering Review Team, Training and Development for foster carers and Initial Enquiries.
I work closely with the seven area Fostering Support Teams to promote joint working and support to foster carers, children and young people. The Fostering Support Teams supervise foster carers, match all referrals for children placements with appropriately skilled carers, promote training for carers and facilitate support groups.
I have worked with Kent Fostering Service for 19 years, initially as a Fostering Social Worker and then as Team Manager for Assessment and Support Teams. In the last couple of years I have been working alongside the Head of Fostering Caroline Smith, in the role of Practice Development Officer with a lead on Fostering. Caroline is currently covering the Assistant Director post for Corporate Parenting and I am covering for Caroline.
I am passionate about this role as it oversees the fostering service to ensure that Kent Fostering recruit and supervise the very best foster carers to promote a safe and secure environment for children and young people in Kent.
I love playing netball and have played for many teams since I was a teenager including Canterbury under 21s. I am a Goal Shooter and have played in the freezing rain and on the hottest of days.
Hello, I am Caroline Smith, the Interim Assistant Director for Corporate Parenting. I am responsible for the services that support our Children in Care and Care Leavers including Kent Fostering Service, Adoption, VSK and 18plus Care Leavers. As a Corporate Parent I want the absolute best for our children and young people, ensuring they get the right support to achieve their full potential. I am very proud of the children and young people we work with and always value any feedback on our services about what we can do to support you.
I have worked for Kent County Council for 26 years, completing my training as a Social Worker and working with children and adults with disabilities, before working in the Fostering Service for 13 years. I am currently covering the Assistant Director role as wanted to be able to make a difference in the lives of as many children and young people as possible.
The best thing about my job is seeing the achievements of children and young people within my services. I love the variety my job gives and the ability to create change with new ideas that will improve the lives of those I am a corporate parent too.
If I won the lottery, I would buy a café on the beach, spending the day baking cakes and looking out at the sea.
I am Head of the Care Leavers 18 Plus Service. It means that I oversee 10 teams of workers who support around 1500 Care Leavers between the ages of 18 and 25.
I made a positive decision to apply for the post as I really wanted to do the job.
The best thing about my job is working with the staff and the young people, being around people and trying to help them as best as I can.
I run marathons and have a best time of 3 hours and 25 minutes which I am very proud of.