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!).
The University of Greenwich is offering Young People, who are aged between 14 and 17 and have experience of care, the opportunity to take part in a free two-day residential workshop at a London Theatre. During the weekend, you will helped to think about your future using performance and fun drama techniques.Read More
The workshop will take place on the weekend of 8th and 9th June 2019 at the Bathway Theatre in Woolwich with your overnight stay at university accommodation in Avery Hill in Eltham. The activities will be delivered by lecturers, drama practitioners and care leaver students. You will use performance not only to have fun but also think constructively about your next steps in life – whether this is applying to university or thinking about a career. In the evening, you will get the chance to have food with the other young people attending and use the student facilities giving you a taste of university living!
Anyone with care experience aged between 14 and 17 can apply and it doesn’t matter if you haven’t had any experience of drama or performing before! All of your travel expenses will be covered and your food and accommodation will be provided for free.
On Tuesday 9th April, the Participation Team took two groups of young people to the Cyclopark in Gravesend.Read More
Despite the wet weather, we planned to have a great day, and that we did! We started the day by learning how to do ‘M’ checks (checking your bike is safe to ride), making sure we all knew how to ride safely and learning how to brake properly. Once we were all ready, we headed onto the road course. We learnt how to ride as a ‘chain gang’ (groups of four taking it in turns to ride at the front of a line). After a few laps, we took a short break to have a drink (and a few cheeky biscuits).
After the break, we ventured on to the ‘off road’ trail. On the trail, there were lots of bumps and tight corners that both groups overcame fantastically. In the middle of the trail, we stopped to ride on a downhill mountain biking course. Within the course there were very tight corners with large berms and big mounds to ride over. Everyone had at least one go and thoroughly enjoyed the course. We soon headed back to base to get ready to go home. We had a great day and really can’t wait to do something similar again!
We have some great activities coming up during the May half term holidays. If you’re interested in attending any of these days, please email us at VSK_Participation@kent.gov.uk.
IMO, the website where Children in Care and Care Leavers can share their stories and experiences, is running an amazing competition for teenagers over 16 in care and Care Leavers up to the age of 25.Read More
IMO is asking you to send in a blog post, short story, article, poem, photograph, video, vlog or podcast about your biggest achievement for your chance to win a full set of driving lessons. As long as it fits the theme, you can be as creative as your want! You could write about how you coped with being in care or moving to a new placement, passing your exams, starting a new job or taking on a new challenge. It’s entirely up to you!
The competition will be judged by Anne Longfield, Children’s Commissioner for England. The lucky winner will win 40 hours of driving lessons from the AA, whilst three runners up will each receive a pair of Curzon cinema tickets and a year long subscription to Tastecard.
To find out where to send your entry, check out the T&Cs and find the competition entry form, go to https://imohub.org.uk/competition-win-driving-lessons-the-aa/
The deadline is midnight on Sunday 28 April 2019 so get creating!
The Care Leaver Covenant is a promise made by private, public or voluntary organisations to provide support for Care Leavers aged 16 – 25 to help them to live independently.Read More
In July 2016, the Government published ‘Keep On Caring’ to support young people from care to independence.
All young people who leave care are now provided with support in the form of a Local Offer. This should include help with the transition to living independently; support with finding accommodation and with any costs of participation in education, training and employment. Kent County Council’s Local Offer can be found here.
However, in order to help Care Leavers get the best possible start to adulthood, other organisations also need to play a part and that’s where the Care Leaver Covenant comes in!
Organisations that sign up to the Care Leaver Covenant are able to offer a support package to Care Leavers. Some of the activities organisations might offer, include:
To help you access this support, the Care Leaver Covenant App has been created to show you these useful offers provided by organisations, charities and businesses across the UK. They are exclusive to Care Leavers, and are intended to help you start your career, stay healthy and make new friends.
Largely, this App is designed to work offline, so once it is installed you don’t need to rely on having WiFi or an internet connection to be able to use it. This also means it won’t be using any of your phone contract data. The App will be updated with new offers as they become available, and anything new will be automatically synced to your App when you have got a connection, such as in a library or a cafe. Download it at Google Play or the Apple App Store!
Over the February half term, there were two activity days held in Kings Hill and Canterbury. Young People could come along and take part in different workshops - African Drumming, Chinese Dance and Asian Shadow Puppets - to learn about some arts from different countries.Read More
The day started off with everyone arriving, saying hello and getting to know each other. Once everyone had arrived, we got into our groups which were team Panda, Lion and Asian elephant – named after the countries’ native animals. The group I was in was Lions and we started off the day with African Drumming.
We learnt that the African drum that we were playing was called a Djembe and it is normally found in West African Countries. It is traditionally made from goat skin to provide the drum with high pitched tones. We also learnt there are three main sounds of the Djembe that can be played which are the bass, tone and slap. The bass sound is the low-pitched sound and it is made by hitting the drum in the middle with a heavy hand. The tone sound is the medium pitched sound and it is made by playing the drum on the edge with your fingers. Then the slap is the high-pitched sound (which is the hardest sound of the three to make) and is made by playing it near the edge but slightly further in than the tone sound using the palm of your hand. Once we had learnt the different sounds we could play, we started to learn rhythms on the Djembe which was so much fun. At first, it was difficult to remember the rhythms but with practice and help from the tutor and my group it became a lot easier to remember.
Next, we had Chinese ribbon dance which is a traditional art form that originates from ancient China and is performed with a thick satin ribbon on a stick. You use the ribbon to create patterns and designs in the air. At first, everyone felt a bit silly and shy to take part but once we went through the moves and had a giggle about how we all looked together, everyone enjoyed themselves. It took some practice to make certain patterns in the air because it was harder than it looked but it was so much fun. We performed our dance to traditional Chinese music. By the end, everyone had mastered the dance with one and two ribbons without getting them tangled, twisted or knotted.
Then we had lunch and played some games all together such as stuck in the mud and duck duck goose before we went to our last workshop.
Last but not least, we had Asian Shadow puppets. The puppeteer went through the different kinds of puppets there are such as finger puppet, hand puppet, marionette, and shadow puppets. We learnt that shadow puppets are a part of ancient Indian culture and deliver a good moral or message within the story. The shadow puppetry is performed behind a white sheet with a light beaming through so the figures of the shadow puppets are easier to see. We made our own shadow puppets with black card and a stick and used them to produce a story about an elephant and a dog which is an Indian folktale.
At the end of the day, we showed each other the arts we had learnt by performing them in our groups. This was so much fun because we were working as a team and showed everyone what we had accomplished as a team.
If you are worried about something related to your care, education or the adults who work with you, it is important that you feel able to talk to someone about it. Often this could be someone you see regularly like your Social Worker or your Foster Carer but if you don’t want to talk to one of the people who works with you, you can talk to an advocate.Read More
An advocate is independent as they do not work for Kent County Council. In Kent, they work for the Young Lives Foundation. Their role is to listen to your concerns and support you to find solutions which are in your best interest. They make sure you understand your rights and what you are entitled to as a Child in Care or Care Leaver in Kent. Advocates can help you get your views across and help you have a say in the decisions made about your life.
With your agreement, an advocate can support you at meetings and contact people who work with you on your behalf. They can help you write letter and emails or even make a complaint if you’re unhappy about something. They try to help you resolve your problems. They will also keep any information you tell them confidential unless you tell them that it is ok to share (unless they are worried that you or someone else may not be safe).
You can contact the Young Lives Foundation directly or ask someone to telephone them for you. Their free phone number is 0808 164 0096 or you can email email@example.com.
Their website is https://ylf.org.uk/young-peoples-zone/ur-voice/
At Virtual School Kent, we are always looking for ways to extend our students’ learning. We have subscribed to SAM Learning, a unique online service which offers educational support on multiple subjects.Read More
Studies show that students can achieve 2 GCSE grades on average better than expected with as little as 10 hours or more use of SAM Learning.
VSK will be awarding a Kindle Fire 7 to the Year 11 student who has demonstrated the most effective use of Sam Learning on their core GCSE subjects.
BUT any secondary school age student, who is in care, can obtain an account for Sam Learning to help their studying so please ask even if you are Year 7-10!
To arrange access to Sam Learning, please email firstname.lastname@example.org and we will send you your username, password and login instructions.
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!
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.
**This Survey is now closed. Thank you to everyone who had their say and shared their views.**Read More
Our Young Adult Council (YAC) wants to hear your views about the services the Care Leavers 18+ Service provides.
To do this, they have launched a new survey designed to find out about your experiences of leaving care and identify where the 18+ Service can improve. This survey is open to all Care Leavers aged 18 and over who were in the care of Kent County Council and are now supported by the Care Leavers 18+ Service.
Click here to access the survey. You can answer in a variety of languages such as Pashto or Tigriyan and all your answers are anonymous, so you can be as honest as you want - tell us what you really think! It’s easy to complete and should only take about 5 minutes.
YAC is urging as many care leavers as possible to take part as you are best placed to tell the Care Leavers 18+ Service what being a care leaver is really like and how they can make things better for you and others. It’s your chance to rate the 18+ Service and let them know your views about Pathway Planning, your placement and how informed you feel about the services they provide.
SHARE YOUR VIEWS AND HAVE YOUR SAY!
Virtual School Kent held their fifth annual Post 16 Awards Ceremony. This event recognises and celebrates the achievements of looked after post 16 young people and there were some amazing success stories.Read More
As in previous years, lots of nominations were received and 88 awards were presented to young people, many of whom attended the awards ceremony. It was a truly fantastic evening with over 50 young people attending, supported by their friends, carers, social workers and personal advisers. The event had a red, black and gold theme with red carpet, balloons, photo screen, sports activities and a delicious buffet. Everyone was blown away by the young people’s achievements. The event also included an entertaining quiz about the Young Adult Council led by the VSK Apprentices (some tables were very competitive!) and a talk about the National Citizen Service by Ben Powell.
Awards presented at the ceremony included:
There were some really inspiring stories from these young people and they rightly deserved the recognition of their achievements!
Well done again to all the winners!
This summer, we have been incredibly happy to welcome two new apprentices to the Participation Team. You may have met Tia Pires Higgins and Rob Barton if you came to our activity days during the summer holidays but if not, let’s meet them…Read More
Hi, my name is Rob. I am now an Apprentice for the Virtual School Kent. An actor at heart, I love being able to express my feelings through shows and songs, so beware. I have become an apprentice for lots of reasons. The first reason would be because of my background - I grew up in foster care and I have a good my knowledge of the care system and how it affects young people. The second reason would be that I love seeing the enjoyment on a young person’s face when they know that things have been done for them and that rewards are coming to them as well. I’m really looking forward to my new role.
Hi, my name is Tia and I’m a new addition to the VSK Participation Team. My hobbies and interests are ice skating and horse riding. I really enjoyed doing some work experience in the summer with VSK which is when I decided I wanted to be part of the team. I am really looking forward to my role as an Apprentice Participation Worker as I can engage with and help lots of young people.
We are also happy to announce that Chelsea Goodwin will be continuing with the Virtual School Kent after successfully completing her level 2 Apprenticeship. She is now working towards a level 3 qualification, well done Chelsea!
All our Apprentice Participation Workers are undertaking an apprenticeship with Virtual School Kent and are here to help bridge the gap between you and the Kent County Council elected Members and Senior Directors. They have been in care at some point themselves or have had similar experiences. The role of an apprentice with VSK involves supporting young people, encouraging them to speak up about their views and experiences, and discussing what they would like to change about the care system. Their main responsibilities are to support the Children in Care Councils and organise the activity days that run during the school holidays.
If you are interested in becoming an apprentice within the Participation Team and would like to learn more, why not get in touch? Email VSK_Participation@kent.gov.uk to see if we are recruiting new apprentices!
Every year, Virtual School Kent’s Participation Team holds a celebration for the three Children in Care Councils. The council groups are The Super Council which is for 7-11 year olds, Our Children and Young People’s Council for 11-16 year olds and the Young Adult Council for age 16+.Read More
As well as celebrating the groups’ achievements, it’s a great chance for the Corporate Parents to meet young people and hear first-hand their views, opinions, and fresh ideas about the care they receive from Kent County Council. This year, the event took place on the 1st August in Maidstone.
The aim of the day was to explore what young people understand by the term ‘Corporate Parents’ and how Kent County Council can be the best corporate parent possible to all children in care and care leavers in Kent.
The young people had a chance to create their Corporate Parenting ‘top 10’, some of these included stability, to be given choices and to be listened to.
The young people also added their own feedback about what they would like Kent County Council and their Corporate Parents to do better, some of the things they said were:
The Participation Team will use the young people’s ideas and feedback to create a Young Person’s Guide to Corporate Parenting.
Then it was time for the fun part - the outdoor team game activities which included KCC staff and young people taking part in giant inflatable darts, limbo and a large inflatable climbing wall. Thank you to everyone who attended – your view and ideas are shaping the services that you and other children in care and care leavers receive!
If you are interested in joining one of the Children in Care Councils or just having your say, get in touch at VSK_Participation@kent.gov.uk.
Mind of My Own (MOMO) is an app or website that allows you to share your thoughts and feelings with your social worker, independent reviewing officer, personal adviser and other professionalsRead More
Once you have turned 8, you can sign up for your own account at http://mindofmyown.org.uk/ or by downloading the app on to a smart phone or tablet.
Choose the scenario you would like to talk about and off you go.
If you use the app regularly, you might have noticed a few changes recently:
Want to find out more about MOMO One? Contact the Participation Team at VSK_Participation@kent.gov.uk or click on the MOMO section in the Primary or Secondary areas of Kent Cares Town.
What a brilliant summer we have had! Hot, sunny and jam packed with fun!Read More
We started the summer trying some new sports – gliding in Ashford and water sports in Dover.
Next, a trip to Betteshanger Park near Deal gave us the chance to conquer an obstacle course, build shelters and try geocaching.
Animal lovers enjoyed trips to Howletts Zoo to see the gorillas, lions, elephants and more whilst at Huckleberry Woods in Faversham, we fed cute farm animals and even tried pig fishing! We finished the summer mountain biking and canoeing at Bewl Water and den building at Shorne County Park where even the rain couldn’t spoil our enjoyment of the day.
You told us that the activity days were a great way to try something new, have fun and meet new friends. We loved seeing so many new and familiar faces and look forward to seeing you all at another activity day in the future! If you haven’t been to one our activity days before, we’d love to meet you, give it a try! We will be running activity days during the October school holidays.
Our Activity Days are open to all children in the care of Kent County Council. We also run days for older young people in care and care leavers. If you want to find out about our next activity days or have a suggestion for something we could do, get in touch at VSK_Participation@kent.gov.uk.