Christmas can be a difficult time for many care leavers. They can find managing their first experience of independence and living alone challenging, often suffering from loneliness, depression and sometimes even hunger as a result. Increasing gaps in provision for care leavers further compounds these problems, and their sense of isolation can be acute.
Unlike most young people who can rely on the love and support of their family long after their teens, care leavers are expected to be independent once they turn 18. And while most of us can turn to family and friends for support during the festive season, such networks are not always readily available to those leaving the care system or living independently. That’s why it’s reassuring that individuals, services and organisations exist that recognise this and do their best to support care leavers at this time of the year, all with the same aim in mind – that no care leaver will be alone at Christmas.
With the help of those who use, volunteer and organise these initiatives, we’ve put together a list of charities and services throughout England who are opening their doors to support care leavers this Christmas.
If you’re planning on attending any of these events, make sure to double-check dates and times beforehand as they may be subject to change.
And remember, if you’re in care, leaving care, living away from home or working with social services, the Children’s Commissioner’s advice service, Help at Hand, can provide confidential advice and information about your situation. No issue is too big or too small for our team of advisors, who can give you advice about your rights and who to talk to. They can also speak to others on your behalf, and put you in touch with the right person to help you, like an advocate. As part of the Commissioner’s mandate, they keep track of the bigger issues affecting young people and use this information to help others.
We wish you a happy and safe Christmas.
The Tope Project
After Tope, a 23-year-old care leaver, took his own life in 2010, the profound impact of his death led to the founding of the Tope Project, when Tope’s friends came together to support each other and reach out to other care leavers. Each year the group organise free events for care leavers at Christmas to help combat isolation through socialising, raising awareness of the depression that often affects care leavers living independently at this time of year.
Go-Forward Youth is a drop-in centre for care leavers experiencing isolation. It works to support care leavers as they transition to adulthood, providing both day and night respite services amongst other activities, including hosting a Christmas dinner for care leavers each year.
Inspired by the Tope Project, the poet Lemn Sissay founded The Christmas Dinner, an annual project encouraging communities to come together and provide a Christmas Day for care leavers aged between 18 and 25. Running since 2013, it has previously taken place in Manchester, London, Leeds, Liverpool and Oxford. So far, confirmed locations for The Christmas Dinner 2017 include Canterbury, Richmond, Sheffield, Oxfordshire and Leeds.
You can donate to the initiative here.
Drive Forward Foundation
Drive Forward Foundation is a charity supporting care leavers to achieve their full potential through sustainable employment. They hold regular training sessions and events for care leavers around work and education, and their staff also support care leavers with advice and information to help them as they transition to independent living.
This December they’re running a free Christmas Lunch Club for care leavers at the Living Space Community Centre in Waterloo, London. You can get in touch with them on 0207 620 3000.
Pure Insight – Stockport Care Leavers Christmas
Pure Insight is a charity dedicated to supporting young people leaving care. Formed in January 2013 as a direct response to the needs of local care leavers, the charity offers a variety of activities to help build coping strategies and develop skills to enable care leavers to progress towards successful independent living. This year they’re organising a Christmas Dinner for up to 30 care leavers.
CenterPoint is the UK’s leading youth homelessness charity. More than 350 staff work for Centrepoint across the country, supporting homeless young people into a home and a job every day. Their team includes frontline workers based in hostels, counsellors and health supporters.
This year they’re running ‘More than a Christmas Dinner’, and a donation of £10 to this initiative can buy a young person a festive meal.
124,000 children will be homeless this winter. Shelter helps millions of people every year struggling with homelessness through their support and legal services, and they provide free housing advice for young people aged 18-25, including benefits and leaving care information. They offer housing advice on 0808 800 4444, and deal with emergencies on 0808 1644 660.
Click here to donate to Shelter this winter.
Crisis is an organisation working directly with thousands of homeless people every year. They help people to rebuild their lives and ensure that they are supported out of homelessness for good. The services they offer include one to one support, advice and courses for homeless people in 12 areas across England, Scotland and Wales.
From the 23rd to the 29th of December, Crisis are organising Christmas Centres in donated spaces in London, Newcastle, Edinburgh, Birmingham and Coventry. It costs £26.08 to reserve a place at one of these centres for a homeless person.
Homeless Link is a charity that supports organisations that work with people that have become homeless in England. Their aim is to improve and raise awareness of services and campaign for policy change that will help end homelessness.
This grassroots group offers information and advice on homelessness, and collaborates with many organisations across the UK to counter the effects of homeless. Services include food runs and advice on benefits and housing. This Christmas they’re working with Network Rail, St. Mungo’s and London Euston Station to provide support for 200 homeless guests on Christmas Day.
If you’re interested in volunteering, or for more information, email [email protected].
St Mungo’s is a charity and housing association directly supporting people who are sleeping rough, living in hostels and at risk of homelessness. They help people transition away from homelessness, assisting them to rebuild their lives and fulfil their ambitions. They also run services which enable young people to move away from rough sleeping for good – offering them support around mental health, skills and employment.