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Finding Accommodation as a Care Leaver

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.

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Accommodation Types

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.

What to think about

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.

Kent

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.

Guarantor

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 Home

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.

 

Why go to a University or College Open Day?

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!

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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

  • Check if you can just turn up or whether you need to register or book on to a site/campus tour by visiting the college or university website before the Open Day.
  • Go with a list of questions and things you want to find out.  Open Days are a fantastic opportunity to actually speak to real people including students studying courses you are interested in!
  • Try to picture yourself studying there – different colleges/universities suit different people.  You need to find the right one for you.
  • Don’t forget to check out the other facilities.  What’s the café or restaurant like? Is there a gym or clubs you can join?
  • Open days are also a good way to get to know the local area, find where the college is and work out how easy it is to get to it from home.

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.

Have Your Say on the Care Leavers 18+ Service

**This Survey is now closed.  Thank you to everyone who had their say and shared their views.**

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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!

16+ Awards Ceremony

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.

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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:

  • Young people achieving excellent GCSE results
  • Bronze, Silver and Gold Awards for our post 16 students
  • Young Adult Council members received recognition for their commitment to the Council
  • National Citizen Service Award

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!

Say Hello to Tia and Rob and well done Chelsea!

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…

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Rob

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.

Tia

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.

Chelsea

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!

The Annual Children in Care Countywide Event

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+.

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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.

What is a Corporate Parent?

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:

  • Corporate Parents to attend more days/events with Children in Care
  • To be treated as a part of a family
  • Greater consistency
  • To widen opportunities for Children in Care and Care Leavers

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.

MOMO Gets A New Look!

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 professionals

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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:

  • A quicker sign up for young people – you can now create your new account in 3 easy steps!
  • The mood slider – drag the mood slider to show how you’re feeling.
  • Fun emojis – communicate more quickly and easily!
  • Improved link to Childline – MOMO One isn’t an emergency app so if you need to talk to someone urgently, you can contact Childline. If you use MOMO on a mobile phone and click the Childline logo, you have the option to make a free phone call to Childline immediately.
  • ‘My Profile’ page – You will be able to customise your ‘profile’ to include information about yourself. MOMO will be doing more work on the profile section in the coming months so look out for more features to come!

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.

A fantastic summer of activity days!

What a brilliant summer we have had! Hot, sunny and jam packed with fun!

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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.