When my support from my leaving care team ended I was 22. I was just finishing my final year of university studying for a BA(hons) in Youth and Community Work. My PA at the time visited and told me that the service was changing. That we would no longer have an allocated PA post-21 and would be able to contact the duty team if we needed anything. I was given a letter which phrased the change as though it was a choice and it was going to allow me to be more independent. It asked me whether I wanted support; A from the duty team or B not at all.
I was coming up to a huge turning point in my life and I felt abandoned. I was looking for my first full time job and somewhere to live all at the same time. I had no support and ended up having to stay with my participation worker for a week after my student tenancy ended while I waited for my new landlord to confirm I could move in. I remember being so furious, not for myself, but for everyone else. I knew that I was incredibly lucky to have such a good support network whereas so many care leavers do not. The thought of all those people slipping through the net and ending up in awful situations was horrifying to me.
I hate calling people to ask for help so the idea of speaking to a duty worker who knows nothing about me, having to relay the same information over and over again, just wasn’t something I wanted to be doing and I thought that other care leavers would probably feel the same.
I did have to contact the duty team about 3 times after that, only to access my leaving care grant to kit out my flat. When I moved in to my first place the only furniture I owned was a sideboard and a set of plastic drawers. I was so grateful to friends who donated things to me on the day I moved in as getting money from my local authority took forever. I ended up purchasing a mattress out of my own money and claiming it back months later just so I would have something to sleep on.
I’m only 24 now and I’ve decided to have nothing to do with any of it anymore. I work as a support worker for the local authority, often alongside the care leavers team so it would be a huge conflict of interest. However, I also completely lost all trust in them. They had abandoned me at a time when I really could have done with a bit of support. When I went to university I was told I would have support until I finished education. They moved the goal posts and it just wasn’t fair.
At this point, I can’t wait to turn 25 so I can officially say I am done with it all and get on with my life. I will always be proud to be a care leaver but I’m happy to say I succeeded without them.