A GROUP of kindhearted teenagers have created ‘care bags’ to gift to young people going into foster care as a way of letting them know they are loved.
As part of the government-backed National Citizen Service (NCS) scheme with leading employment skills charity Inspira, a total of 16 young people delivered bags of goodies and hygiene products to Lancashire County Council Social Services for distribution among people in care.
The NCS works with 16 and 17-year-olds to build confidence and encourage them to give back to their communities, and again linked up with the Lancaster branch of Inspira to run a summer programme of activities.
The teenagers were challenged to support a local charity or cause and, from that task, the group Security Aid For Everybody (S.A.F.E.) was formed. The teenagers wanted to show young people going into foster care that people did care about them.
With the support of company Madlug, which donated more than 60 bags, the teens used the £900 they raised through a fun day to purchase items suitable for the different age ranges of children in care; 3-5; 6-9; 10-12 and 13-18.
The bags for the younger children contained toys, hygiene products, colouring books and crayons, while the items for the older children included sanitary products, body wash, face wipes and blankets.
S.A.F.E. Project Manager Sarah Clarke wanted to support social services as she had been through the fostering system herself, and she had witnessed first-hand a lack of support for the care organisation – and how upsetting it can be for young people moving into care without any personal possessions.
She said: “As an ex-foster child myself, I know people don’t go into the system with much and the foster carer receiving the child may not have had time to prepare for their arrival at short notice.
“The young person might get some contents in a black bin big and that can be very upsetting, so we wanted to make sure they had some of their own possessions especially if they are in a care home with eight to nine other children where you end up having to share everything.
“As a group, we wanted to do something that would make a real difference for people going through a very difficult time in their lives. A lot of people going into care feel unwanted or neglected, but this was a way of telling them that people do care about them and we wanted to give them a warm welcome.”
The project was the culmination of an action-packed summer programme of Inspira-supported NCS activity, which started with a one-week residential trip to Castle Head Hostel, in Grange-over-Sands, in Cumbria.
This was followed by a programme of social and professional skill workshops and tasks, including fundraising challenges, finding out more about their local area and meeting the local MP.
Fellow S.A.F.E member Lucy Cashin said: “The NCS programme was such a good opportunity to make new friends, learn new skills and learn more about possible careers, and I would certainly recommend it to all teenagers. I’ve made friends for life and I’m looking forward to taking part in future events with NCS and Inspira.”
During the most recent NCS programme, the causes supported by the young people also included a children’s cancer charity, a women’s only charity, a food waste reduction project and a campaign promoting independent shops.
Ruth Dunstan was the NCS wave leader for Lancaster, on behalf of Inspira. She said: “The difference we see in the young people from day one to the final day of the two-week programme is amazing, and it’s so good to see how everybody gets on with one another and makes lifelong friends.
“So much happens during the programme that there is something for everybody, from socialising, education, business skills and learning about their local communities.
“The wide variety of campaigns supported by the latest wave of teenagers just shows how much of a big difference the NCS programme can have on the community and the young people themselves, and there’s nothing as satisfying as seeing all the hard work and planning of the groups being rewarded by producing such successful and impactful projects as demonstrated by the S.A.F.E. team.”
More than 35,000 young people from across Lancashire, Cumbria and the North-East have benefited from the government-backed NCS with Inspira since it was set up more than a decade ago.
Inspira has been running 27 programmes this summer using residential centres serving 15 different local authority areas in Cumbria, Lancashire, Newcastle and Hexham.
Anyone wishing to find out more about the NCS programme should visit www.inspira.org.uk/national-citizen-service-programme.