Council and employers help care leavers to thrive
22 March 2018Yolanda Offodile is a successful performing arts teacher and professional dancer who is thriving in her career at the age of 23.
However, Yolanda’s confident persona hides a difficult childhood growing up in the care system in the borough. She was fostered at the age of 8 and remained in long term care until she was 18.
Yolanda said: “I have suffered from some mental health problems over the years and still suffer from them now occasionally. So it has been difficult but I was able to do well in school and go to university.”
Cheshire West and Chester Council acts as the corporate parent for Yolanda and the many other care leavers in the borough.
She explained: “I got through university and I wanted to do a PGCE but was in a bad financial situation. People who have been in care do not have the bank of Mum and Dad, so I swallowed my pride and contacted Cheshire West and Chester Council for some help. They helped me with a student bursary to help me get me back on my feet which has opened up other things for me.”
Yolanda was at an event in Chester organised by the Council where she and other care leavers told their stories to a room full of employers in the hope they would pledge to help people leaving care with job support in future years.
Jodie Jones, 20, lived in semi- independent living setting for a year after she left care and has since been supported by the Council to find a house for her and her young son.
She said: “My Leaving Care Worker (Personal Advisor) at the Council wrote a letter as a personal reference to housing benefit and they paid a deposit for me to get a house. The Leaving Care Team helped me search for an apprenticeship and supported me to get a job as a business administrator.
“I think this event today has been a great eye opener. I think it has been beneficial; it is about giving young people the chance to get a job.
“It has helped get the word out to employers about care leavers, hearing from the horse’s mouth, hearing it from the young people. It is also about making it better for the children in care coming up who are going to be in my position in three or four years’ time.”
Dean Latham, 23, is a care leaver who dreams of being a social worker and after meeting some important people at the event he has high hopes for the future.
He said: “My personal advisor has helped me loads. I got the job at Brio. I got a job on the Fostering Panel interviewing foster carers and my Personal Advisor made all that happen. It has opened so many other doors as well.
“I appreciate the job I have been given but I want more, I want to expand. I want to be a Personal Advisor, like a social worker, helping care leavers aged 18 -25.”
Councillor Samantha Dixon, Leader of Cheshire West and Chester Council, said: “As a Council, we believe our role as corporate parent to our children in care and care leavers is one of the most important things that we do.
“This means making sure care leavers receive the same care, encouragement support and opportunities as their peers, as they make the transition into adulthood.
“Everyone attending this important event has a part to play. The pledges they made or will make are absolutely fundamental in helping us to collectively provide our care leavers with the support they need to have the same life chances as any other young person.”
Yolanda found the event to be “so motivating and inspiring”. She added: “It was an amazing event. It will help other care leavers who are younger than me because the Council will make sure they have more support and opportunities in the future.”