Somerset County Council is highlighting the need to recruit more ‘Stepping Stones’ carers to support young care leavers.
Stepping Stones carers support young care leavers aged 16-21, who are making the transition from care to independent living, but are not yet ready to live on their own.
This involves providing them with a safe place to stay, helping them gain important life skills and experience such as managing bills, cooking and shopping, and encouraging them to seek further opportunities in education or employment. Cllr Tessa Munt, Somerset County Council’s Executive Lead Member for Children and Families, said: “Around 150 young people in Somerset leave care every year, and we urgently need more Stepping Stones carers to help 16-21 year-old care leavers on their journey toward independent living.
“Stepping Stones placements are relatively short; anything from a few months to a couple of years, and a Stepping Stones carer can continue to work alongside their caring role.
“It is a rewarding role that makes a real difference and I would urge anyone who thinks they might be interested to get in touch with our team who will be able to answer questions and offer advice.”
Karen, one of Somerset’s Stepping Stones carers, reflects on why she and her partner decided to step forward and take on the role.
“We always wanted to help young people and did want to foster, but having three children of our own we didn’t feel we had the time or space. But as our children got older and moved on, we felt ready to help,” Karen said.
“We chose Stepping Stones as we both work but we felt we could support a teenager. I would say if you can help do so; we have enjoyed the ups and managed the downs. There is lots of support there too.
“To be a Stepping Stones carer, you need time, patience and a good sense of humour. We have found that each young person is totally different, but overall they want to be listened to, to be in a caring home, and just need a chance to settle and grow in confidence and independence.”
Stepping Stones carers need to be aged 23 or over, have a spare room in their home, and ideally live in a town or area with good transport links, as it’s important for our care leavers to have access to amenities and opportunities.
In return, Stepping Stones carers receive a weekly fee, starting at £189.31 plus a little extra for food and utilities (up to £27.50) paid by the young person from their weekly allowance.
To find out more about how you could change a child’s story as a Stepping Stones carer, visit the Fostering in Somerset website or call 0800 587 9900.