Fostering - Hear from our care experienced young people

For Cumbrian care leaver Danielle, 19, joining Cumbria Youth Alliance's Step Ladder programme last year has led to taking on a prestigious role as a national champion for care experienced young people and also to a new career as a Care Leaver Ambassador Apprentice with Cumbria County Council. 

Danielle, who has been in care since the age of six, said: "It all happened when I started doing the Step Ladder Plus programme through Cumbria Youth Alliance (CYA). Step Ladder is a six-step programme which you can complete online and each module covers a different life skill, such as English, maths and budgeting your money. It is incentivised with financial rewards when you complete each step, with a total of £1,500 available if you complete the whole programme.

"While I was doing Step Ladder I got a lot of support from my mentor Cat who is a project manager at CYA and we got along really well and I knew I would really miss working with her once I'd completed the programme. So when a "Time to Shine" internship opportunity came up funded by the Rank Foundation at CYA, she suggested I apply and I was thrilled when I found out I got the job, following a competitive interview in Newcastle. 

"I joined CYA in January and at the very start of this year I was invited to talk about my positive experience of Step Ladder to other care leavers, staff and managers from around the country, through the National Leaving Care Benchmarking Forum, at their meetings in Manchester and Birmingham. From these meetings the YPBMF also look for young people's 'champions' who can be a voice for care leavers in local authorities to help to improve outcomes for young people and to drive policy change. I was successful in getting one of four places this year representing young people in the UK and I have been invited to be a guest 'inspirational speaker' for the NLCBF/YPBMF Celebration Event which takes place on October 29, during National Care Leavers Week 2020. I am nervous but also really excited to be involved with the virtual event this year.

"It was through my internship with CYA that I also first heard about the apprenticeship with Cumbria County Council when my colleague Cat flagged it up and encouraged me to go for it.  The apprenticeship is 13 months long and in that time I will be responsible for thinking about and creating projects that will benefit young people in my local area. It is quite exciting because in my work with CYA I am already in contact with other young care experienced people in the area and they have lots of ideas about what might help them and that really gives me something to build upon.

"To be honest I didn't have a solid plan of what I wanted to do in my career when I joined the Step Ladder programme last year but now I have been in this line of work for nearly a year I have found it really interesting and it is something I would definitely like to continue with in the future and try to improve life for other young people leaving care. I have always been the one who has been 'helped'; and so it is nice to be on the other side and looking at how I can help to improve other young people's lives."

Care Leaver Liam, 20, from Barrow is a talented musician who has just graduated from Kendal College and hopes to pursue a dream of working as a professional musician on cruise ships in the future. In his blog he talks about his passion for music, the support his foster carer has given him and plans for a career on the ocean waves

Liam said: "I've had a real passion for music since the start of secondary school; I played the trumpet and continue to develop my skills with that. I kind of self-taught myself into college with the piano too.

"At college over the past three years I have studied the technical and practical side of music and  have also studied music from the 1960s to the present day, while at the same time performing in bands and getting to experience life inside a music booth working with different instruments and on songs. I've gain experienced of making and composing new songs on a music software app called Studio One, which was later developed and improved in the music studio with our own massive mixing desk! 

"The music exams I've done were really hard, especially the music industry and performing skills papers, which I failed to accomplish first time but passed the second time. Me and my foster mum had to work really hard during the Easter holidays on the music industry practice papers and she role played to make things easier for me to understand. If it wasn't for my mum's help, then I wouldn't have passed my paper the second time.

"A highlight for me was playing at the fostering service Christmas party last year  - it was awesome playing for everyone and I had a great time! But my first ever time playing live in front of an audience at Bootleggers club in Kendal was frightening as heck, I was so nervous about getting on the stage. But playing alongside other people I felt more relaxed than during doing my solo performances with everyone watching you. But I even managed to get through my solos and achieved some merits and distinctions which I was happy with!  The best Bootleggers gig I ever did was when we were put into bands and had to pick a band/artist to pay tribute to and we picked Stevie Wonder and named ourselves the 'Hevie Chunder' band. 

"I've been in the Barrow Shipyard Junior Band for almost 10 years and we've had some good practices over the years, I've made some good friends and cherished some really good memories along the way - such as winning the South Lakeland Brass Band festival at the Coronation Hall in Ulverston, and playing Christmas carols at Tesco every year.  I remember winning a trophy for being outstanding in rehearsals and showing my full commitment to band practices and, although I had to leave the band when I reached 18, I won't forget the memories I made there.

"My real career dream is to sail on the cruise ships with a jazz band and play across the world. I want to continue with my passion for the trumpet and for music and hopefully be up there with the greats like Louis Armstrong, who is my number one idol!"

Photo courtesy of Shared Lives

Liam and Alex