Carefree 16+ PA Team
Carefree’s personal advisor service works in partnership with the Local Authority to deliver a PA (Personal Advisor) service to about half of Cornwall’s care leavers.
The Carefree 16+ team works within the statutory guidance of the Children (Leaving Care) Act 2000 to provide support and advice to young people between the ages of 15 years 9 months and 21; 24 years if they are in higher education.
What is a Personal Advisor?
A worker who will help a young person to prepare for leaving care and then support them when they are 18 to help them to live independently.
Reflections on being a Personal Advisor
I have only been a Personal Advisor (PA) for a short time, since starting the role in November 2020. Navigating this role has come with its own challenges, along with the added complexity of two National Lockdowns and adjusting to the ‘new normal’. However, 6 months in and I finally feel as if my feet are (somewhat) settled on the ground and I am really starting to understand and enjoy just how significant our role can be.
One thing that has become abundantly clear to me quite quickly is that if you have never met a PA, you are very unlikely to know what a PA is, and what we can actually do for young people. We work with young people in and leaving care from ages 16 – 25. PA’s are usually introduced to a young person at 16, where we will work alongside their Social Worker until they are 18. During this time, we will see young people at least every two months, attend relevant meetings such as CIC reviews and PEPs, and assist with practical matters, such as applying for passports and provisional licences. This period is a real chance for us to a build a relationship and establish trust with our young people, so that at 18, when they say goodbye to their Social Worker and we take over responsibility for supporting them, we have a clear and tailored plan for support post-18 as young people approach adulthood.
Becoming an adult and transitioning into independence is scary for any young person, but care leavers must manage this journey with many added challenges and often a history of difficult life experiences. The role of a PA is to facilitate this journey and make it as smooth as possible. Post 18, we continue to visit our young people bi-monthly at a minimum. We can also offer direct support in many key areas; including education, employment, housing and finances, as well as linking young people in with other relevant services that may benefit them. We update their Pathway Plans, where we identify progress in these key areas and what we will put in place if support is needed. We also ensure that young people receive their financial entitlements from our service – such as the Setting Up Home Grant, funding towards Education and Employment, and help with the costs of learning to drive.
Aside from all the practical things we can offer young people, we are also able to provide emotional support; a non-judgmental ear, that can offer advice and guidance, or simply just listen. For many of our young people, we may be the only worker they have. We may even be the only support network they have. That is why our communication with our young people is so important, we provide a safety net that is absolutely vital as young people age into adulthood. We must be consistent, patient and compassionate. But we also must be resilient and able to challenge our young people at appropriate times.
As a care-experienced person myself, I know first-hand just how much of a difference a PA can make. I had two incredible PA’s, both of whom impacted my life so much that they inspired me to take on this role. Being a PA is not an easy ride, but it certainly is a fulfilling one.
Originally published in the Foster Carers Newsletter