JUST under £50,000 will be used to launch a new scheme to ensure some of Bolton’s most vulnerable youngsters are not at risk of becoming homeless.

The cash is from a £3.2 million Government pot allocated to council which have the highest numbers of care leavers at risk of being homeless and sleeping rough.

Some 642 children in Bolton are currently in care.

A Bolton-based charity helps around 300 young people who are homeless, of which around 30 per cent are said to have been in care at some stage.

The Bolton News:

Those classed as being at risk of living on the streets or being homeless is because of the unsuitable accommodation they move into after leaving care.

This could be as a result of having “no fixed abode” or are sofa-surfing with friends or are in either emergency or bed and breakfast accommodation.

The council say it will use the cash to establish a “care leavers rough sleeping pilot project,” which would support care leavers to live independently.

A report presented to councillors states: “The report outlined proposals for a Pilot Project which would aim to reduce the risk of homelessness and rough sleeping and support care leavers to develop skills to successfully live independently and improve outcomes for care leavers in terms of engagement in education, employment and training.”

The cash will pay for a new officer who will work with those most at risk to assess their needs on a one-to-one basis and ensure the right support is in place.

The new officer is the latest in a raft of measures to improve outcomes for children who are looked after by the local authority, which works in partnership with other services, including charity BACKUP.

A spokesperson for Bolton Council said: “In Bolton, we work hard to support our care leavers, helping young people to live fulfilling, independent lives and reach their full potential.

“This funding from the Department for Education (DfE) is being used to employ a dedicated worker, who will intervene early whenever vulnerable young people may be at risk of becoming homeless.

“Working closely with our partners at Bolton at Home, we have put together packages of tailored support that can include access to mental health services, money advice and help with education and training.

“The project will be funded for 18 months and has already achieved some positive results.

“We will be learning from examples of best practice to improve the support offered to care leavers once the funding period ends.

“A representative from the DfE recently visited Bolton to monitor the progress of the project and was impressed by the collaboration between the council and our partners.

“We have been invited to share examples of our multi-agency work at a DfE conference later this year.”

BACKUP ­—formerly Bolton Young Persons Housing Scheme ­— helps young people who are homeless to be safe and develop skills for independence and to prevent homelessness among young people, including those leaving care.

It works with the local authority to ensure care leavers move into suitable homes.

Statistics show that young people in care experience disproportionate disadvantage especially around education, health, poverty, substance misuse and risks of exploitation and offending.

Maura Jackson, CEO of Backup, said: “These issues are interlinked and all made worse by being homeless.

“All young homeless people have an additional disadvantage that comes with their young age, lack of life experience, lack of resilience or ability to cope with or solve problems.

“BACKUP accommodate and support in the region of 300 young people who are homeless in Bolton each year across our eight different projects and 30 per cent of those have been in care at some stage. There are a small number of young people leaving care we don’t accommodate because they currently have too high support needs for us to manage or we are full when they are referred.”

BACKUP has 40-plus units of accommodations including self contained flats and shared houses across the borough.

Residents are supported to move in, manage the property and move on at the appropriate time. The aim is that after a period of time, the young person moves into their own secure accommodation having acquired the skills and the knowledge required to manage on their own.

Whilst the young person lives on the scheme they will be provided with a support package that is designed for them.

Maura said: “We work in partnership with colleagues from the local authority to ensure young people do not experience homelessness upon leaving care.

“There are multi agency meetings and approaches in order to plan­— months in advance to make sure young people are ready for the transition to adulthood and safely housed where possible. The aim is to prevent and reduce the risk of homelessness and other areas of disadvantage.

“We are constantly working together with the council and other agencies to prevent rough sleeping and homelessness but also really to work towards young people being able to thrive and access opportunities in all areas of their lives.

“At BACKUP we currently have a gap in provision despite having over 100 supported housing places available for young people with very high and very complex needs; inevitably some young people leaving care. However we will be opening a new service later in 2019 to meet this gap and offer even more intensive 24/7 services than we currently have.”

Bolton is the only borough in Greater Manchester to commission this level of service with BACKUP fundraising to add to the support available.

“It’s not just about the housing ­— it’s ensuring the young person has skills, abilities and can manage to live independently and be safe. In addition to the various supported housing services BACKUP offers specialist support to young people leaving the care system to prevent homelessness in the first place; focussing on accessing education and training and building skills,” said Maura.

The Bolton News:

Helping those most at risk

BACKUP has helped transform the lives of young people through the service it provides.

A 16-year-old foster child was supported by the charity for 12 months. She was not in any form of education and training. And representatives from BACKUP met with her regularly while she was still be fostered.

Initially she declined to speak and when she did she would avoid eye contact and cover her mouth. But over the weeks they built up trust and she started to engage in conversation, talking about life and her skills and strengths, so much so she agreed to complete a taster course held at Connexions ­— as long as a support worker went with her.

The charity worked to build up her confidence after which she started gaining the core skills needed with a support worker by her side.

Initially she was described as being very apprehensive to start with ­— but eventually she became less anxious and went on her own which was said to be a “great accomplishment”.

Today the teenager, who has not been named, has completed a number of courses, made new friends and after leaving care enlisted the help of the BACKUP’s supported lodgings service.

Another teenager, a child in care was helped by BACKUP after a social worker contacted the service. She was initially described as “very shy, lacking in confidence” and health issues. She was given one-to-one support over several months, helped to build her self-confidence, including through visits out. The teenager moved into BACKUP accommodation at the age of18 and given help to manage her income and develop the skills needed to live independently.

Through the help she has received she has become involved with the charity and has made friends.

And now she is working towards a career in education.