Since the inception of Element (as Storeys!) we have had a focus on emotional health and wellbeing with care leavers. We began Element for a number of reasons, but one of the most important among these was the lack of emotional or holistic support available for young people leaving care. This gap in support is something that is now being widely reported on in the sector: it has been flagged in government reports, as well as by the NSPCC (Achieving Emotional Wellbeing for Looked After Children, 2015), the Centre for Social Justice (Survival of the Fittest, 2014) and many others.
The need for emotional wellbeing support for care leavers became apparent when Elo worked as an employment support advisor in a local authority leaving care team. Her role was to get unemployed young people into employment, education or training opportunities. Some of the young people Elo was referred had been out of work for months or even years. Many had low self esteem, some expressed feelings of loneliness and lack of motivation. A few had issues with their mental health which they received support for, but even then this support might be one hour a week and the rest would be spent feeling listless without much to do - a challenging situation for anyone’s emotional health and wellbeing. It was exceptionally frustrating to see that the potential of these interesting, funny, opinionated young people was being limited in part by a lack of emotional support.
And so, Element was born, and is still developing as we learn more from young people leaving care. We built our projects on the belief that you can’t underestimate the advantages of having a place to go where you can positively express yourself, reflect, socialise, be creative and have fun.
Our creative projects promote emotional health and wellbeing
Through our creative activities we encourage care leavers to focus on their purpose and motivations. This results in gaining a greater understanding of themselves, what will make them happy, and how to build it into the routine of their day to day lives. At our events where the young people showcase their work, we can see the progress that has been made, and often the confidence that has grown as they show guests around the exhibition.
Thankfully, emotional wellbeing for care leavers is beginning to attract more attention. Projects like Coram Voice’s Bright Spots and many others to ensure that emotional wellbeing practices are embedded into the way local authorities work with their children in care and care leavers. However, there is still a long way to go and to achieve real change we need a sector wide parity of esteem between practical and emotional support for care leavers.
If you are interested in hosting one of our creative projects on emotional health and wellbeing then please get in touch.