THE Coronavirus crisis may have forced families across the UK to retreat to their homes for long periods of time over the last few months. But, for thousands of young people they sadly do not have a place to call their own home.
Essex County Council are therefore stepping up their calls for more Essex residents to provide supported lodgings and help transform the lives of young people across the county.
One such person to provide supported lodgings is NHS Worker Deborah Mbabazi from Harlow.
When her two children grew up and moved out to start their own lives she started to reflect on her purpose in life and describes feeling like “a little piece of my identity had left with my children”.
Deborah originally wanted to foster small children, but very nearly gave up on the idea when she realised that caring for them alongside her successful career was not a suitable option.
That was, until supported lodgings were presented as a suitable alternative which was just as rewarding but more conducive to her lifestyle.
“A lightbulb went off in my head as it seemed like the perfect solution. I could continue to make a difference in the NHS whilst also making a difference in the lives of young people who just needed a helping hand.
As the young people are self-sufficient, I’m able to work full-time, go on holiday and have a social life alongside caring for them. By looking after myself and ensuring I nurture my own life, I’m in turn nurturing the life of those young people and preparing them for independence”
Since 2016, 55-year-old Deborah has single-handily provided supported lodgings for 8 teenagers and keeps in contact with them all once they leave her home. She is currently caring for a 16 year old boy and a 17 year old girl.
Up to 500 children in Essex are expected to come into care this year and Essex County Council are looking for more people like Deborah to provide supported lodgings for those aged 16 – 18 years old.
Applications are welcomed from people from all walks of life. They can be single, married, from a same-sex family or retired but must have a spare bedroom. They can also continue to work fulltime but must consider how they can be available to a young person through the holidays.
Cllr Louise McKinlay, Cabinet Member for Children and Families at Essex County Council, said: “For many, supported lodgings is a good alternative to full-time foster care but equally as rewarding. It’s more than just providing a young person with a place to live. You’ll be giving them a safe, caring, stable home environment which will help prepare them for an independent life”.
Essex County Council offer all those who provide supported lodgings high-quality bespoke local training with an active network of support groups providing opportunities to meet and learn from others supported lodgings providers.
For those concerned that they will not have enough time for supported lodgings due to work Deborah has a very clear message.
“During the Covid-19 pandemic I was working lots of extra shifts in the NHS whilst having two young people at home.
I may not be able to afford my young people as much time as if I were a full-time foster carer, but even a pinch of time makes a huge difference. They may be coming from a family where they were not given any time or shown any love at all.
You see them arrive at your home scared and timid, but when you invest some time in nurturing them you see a confident young person start to develop.
That is just so rewarding and has been life changing. It is a decision I do not regret for one moment”.
Find out more by visiting www.essexadoptionandfostering.co.uk/fostering or attending one of the virtual events: https://bit.ly/39x8Heu The phone line is also still open: 0800 801 530.
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