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A Trip to the Panto!

On one cold Thursday in December, me and the team were given the chance to take members of our three councils (Super Council, OCYPC and the Young Adults Council) to Maidstone’s very own pantomime, Aladdin.

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Meeting at the Hazlitt at around 5.30pm, I was able to sign everyone in and get seated just as the panto started.

Every time I enter the theatre, I always get an excited feeling, and I do think that the children felt that as well. We all knew that this was going to be brilliant and an enjoyable experience.

So, after a few toilets stops, we were able to sit down and begin to watch the panto, firstly being introduced to the character of Wishy Washy. All the young people loved him. The panto itself was so good. The actors were brilliant and the panto was so interactive.  The young people loved joining in with the ‘Oh no he’s not’ or the ‘He’s behind you’, the booing and the cheering! Some of them enjoyed it a bit too much (Tom!).

The second half started of with Aladdin in the cave with the genie and the lamp. The genie was very funny and definitely my favourite character. All the kids laughed at him and smiled.

Little did we all know; Baby Shark was one of the songs at the end. This got a lot of laughs and the young people were soon up and dancing to this viral song.  Even me and Chelsea joined in!

The Panto was a very enjoyable experience. We all had fun; eating popcorn, strawberry fizzy laces and dancing along to Wishy Washy’s songs. We sang and danced, laughed and booed till our throats hurt! We can’t wait for Beauty and the Beast next year!

By Rob Barton

Skills to Foster

On the 26th November, Tom and I were able to interview people who want to be Foster Carers.

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Rob:

Arriving at Whitstable, we met with Sarah to pick up the selfie stick so we could do some filming of our experiences.  Then we were off, on our journey to the ‘Skills to Foster’ session in Seasalter.

Me and Tom got there with lots of time to spare, so we took the time to do some vlogs for the website.  We had a massive laugh and a giggle while doing these so we were in a great mood for interviewing Foster Carers!

Tom:

After setting up our interview room how we wanted it, we were brought into a big room full of the prospective Foster Carers.  It wasn’t that scary… for us, the Foster Carers were terrified until it was explained that we’re actually very nice!

Rob and I went on to explain about our responsibilities as VSK Apprentices. We listed off some things about our CiCC (Children in Care Councils) and how they have helped resolve some problems in the past and made things better for all Children in Care in Kent.  We then went on to give a short talk about our activity days.  We said a little about our recent October 2018 Art days and some more about the plethora of activities we held over the summer holidays, like Bewl Water, Betteshanger Park and Howletts Zoo. They all seemed very impressed!  Hopefully, they’ll get involved when they become Foster Carers for real!

We had 3 couples to interview today.  We wanted to find out about how they would welcome children into their homes and how they would support any young people who were experiencing challenges.  They were all actually really great and answered the questions really well.  Myself and Rob both think they’d all make great Foster Carers.  Our feedback will be be used when the final decisions are made.

It’s really important that young people get a chance to have a say in who becomes Foster Carers.  If you want to get involved in supporting a ‘Skills to Foster’ session, then why not contact us at VSK_Participation@kent.gov.uk.  You can even take part in an accredited Level 2 Course that teaches you about interview skills and recruitment procedures!

Rob and Tom's Top Tips for Cheaper Shopping Bills

At our most recent YAC meeting, the council members and apprentices got to try lots and lots of food.  The catch? We were blind folded! Half the food came from the very pricey Marks & Spencer, the other half from the far more affordable Aldi.  Could we tell which was which and was the M&S food worth the extra money?!

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The Results

Whilst M&S definitely came out on top for a few things (especially sausage rolls!), YAC members were surprised how often we picked Aldi as our favourite of the two (particularly for fruit, vegetables and sandwich meats).  We were astonished at how much cheaper Aldi products were and how much more we could get for our money in a budget supermarket.  In fact, the entire shop was about half the cost in Aldi as it was in M&S!  It reminded all of us of the importance of shopping around.  Whilst M&S might be great for the occasional treat, there are definitely cheaper alternatives out there that are just as good!

This activity made YAC think about how we all can reduce our food bills more generally – Tom and Rob with the help of YAC members compiled their Top 10 Tips and Tricks for a cheaper food shop…

  1. Plan ahead and go in with a list to stop you topping up with expensive extras.  People who take a shopping list save on average £200 a year on their food shop!   
  2. Try supermarket own brand food – it’s substantially cheaper and can be just as good.  Some own brand tea bags for example can be up to 95% cheaper than the most expensive brands.
  3. Buy in bulk – check out the shelf labels for the price per weight.  Buying a huge bag of pasta might seem pricey initially but you won’t need to replace it for quite some time!
  4. Make your own sandwiches.  It might be convenient but buying a ready made sandwich every day soon adds up.  Even the cheapest sandwich will still cost more to buy every day than a loaf of bread and packet of meat which can last all week!
  5. Use your freezer! Portion up bread, meat or cooked meals like curry, Bolognese or chilli.  This reduces waste and means you always have something ready to defrost and eat.
  6. Store food correctly to prevent waste.  Put cheese in resealable bags in the fridge, potatoes in a dry, dark, well ventilated cupboard (not a plastic bag or air tight box) and keep bread fresh in a bread bin.
  7. Check out whether frozen fish and vegetables could save you money. Choosing frozen salmon over fresh can save you up to 55% for example!
  8. Choose cheaper cuts of meat.  Chicken legs or thighs, for example, are much cheaper than chicken breast and often tastier too.
  9. Double check those offers.  They might sound like a bargain but are they actually cheaper than other brands?
  10. This may sound unexpected, but don’t always buy the cheapest product. Some things cost more for good reason. Buy sausages and burgers with plenty of meat rather than fat, gristle and who-knows what. They’re probably better for you, cost just a little more and you don’t have to eat five of them to feel full.

Happy Shopping!

 

Rob Barton and Tom Byrne

Fostering Appreciation Awards

Every year, Kent County Council holds the Fostering Appreciation Awards to recognise the outstanding work carried out on a daily basis by Kent Foster Carers and this year, the VSK Apprentices got to be involved!

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This year, the VSK Apprentices got the amazing opportunity to be part of the judging panel for these awards.  Rob and I looked at all 125 nominations, many written by Children In Care themselves.  There were so many examples of fantastic foster carers who are really making a difference for Children and Young People in Care!  It was very difficult to narrow the nominations down and pick the winners for each category.  This year, the panel decided to invite us to present some VSK Apprentice Awards recognising Carers who help their Young People participate in our activity days and Children in Care Councils with the 3 winners chosen entirely by us.  It was great honour! 

So, on 14th November, we got the train to Folkestone to attend the Awards Ceremony which was been held at the Leas Cliff Hotel.  When we arrived, we were given a script so we could present the Apprentice Awards.  While waiting for everyone to arrive, we ate some homemade cake which was really yummy!  

At 10am, the Awards Ceremony started.  It was opened by Caroline Smith, Assistant Director for Corporate Parenting.   We watched excitedly as the awards were presented and finally, it was our turn to hand our Awards out.  It was really scary as we had to talk in front of over 100 people!  At the end of the ceremony, it was photo time and of course us Apprentices jumped at the photo opportunity!  After the photos it was time to go home.  Hearing the nominations and meeting the foster carers was such a lovely experience.  We had a great time!

by Tia Pires-Higgins 

A Day in the Life of a VSK Apprentice

Hi, my name’s Tom and I’m an Apprentice Participation Worker in the Participation Team.  I wanted to tell you all about what I get up to on a typical day at work!

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So, my day starts off like any other. It begins with an annoying alarm telling me it’s time to get up. I do all the usual morning stuff, and then rush out the door to get my train because I’m interviewing potential Foster Carers this morning.

Now, this may not sound the most interesting start of the day but it’s actually pretty great and I really enjoy it because I have an opportunity to get my voice heard.  Although we have a “strict” set of questions to ask we often go on tangents because we find most of the people wanting to be foster carers kind and interesting to talk to. Of course, they’re not all like that, and that is why we’re there, to separate the wheat from the chaff.  These interviews generally don’t last too long and by lunchtime we’re finished (unless we overrun because of all the talking!).

After lunch, I need to get back to our office, as I have activity day permission forms to send out and one of the other Apprentices needs help with their preparation for a big presentation on “Lifelong Links” (a project about making life long connections with people to create a mega support network, which is extremely useful at any age). We essentially get to go back to playschool for the afternoon to do some colouring, sticking and other arty crafts.

Of course, it’s not all gluey hands and coloured paper; every now and then I did have to check my emails for permission forms for our activity day, which I had to put on a spreadsheet (definitely as fun as it sounds I can assure you!). But, it’s only a couple of minutes per permission form so I can pop back to my art work shortly!

After making a few phone calls to Social Workers to see if their young people would like to attend the Young Adult Council, we need to make sure that the venue is booked for our upcoming activity day. Whilst on the phone, I also check that we can go along and complete a risk assessment.

We have a YAC meeting in the evening although it’s not exactly one of our usual meetings where we have a professional visit and hold a discussion or talk about issues that care leavers face.  On this day, we were going bowling, so we made our way to the bowling alley and waited for a short while for our YAC members to arrive. First things first though, once everyone had arrived we ordered food and drinks!

So, after stuffing ourselves with food we moved over to the bowling lanes and began to bowl. Competition was fierce with even one of our own apprentices getting very competitive with numerous strikes to their name.

Overall though, it was a great night and a really fun end to an already good day. All that was left was a wait for a train and a walk to my place where a comfy sofa and a kettle were waiting for me to make a nice cuppa.

by Tom Byrne