Recently I had a planned stay in hospital. It was an eye opening experience in a number of ways.
I suppose the big thing I noticed was how quickly I lost my usual confidence. In the hospital environment, I had no real expertise, and I was in a vulnerable condition – dependent on others and temporarily unable to do even the most basic tasks for myself.
This was a shock, since I’m used to thinking of myself as a pretty competent person. I haven’t always had masses of confidence but I’ve worked hard, learned from my mistakes, listened to others and probably most importantly, I’ve just about conquered my fear of failure.
One of the things I have learned in this job is that, for care experienced people, even those well into adulthood, lack of confidence is a key issue. It can lead to feelings of self-doubt, of not quite being up to mark, which often never really goes away.
I’ve met people with care experience who are highly successful in their chosen field, inspiring role models, who still battle with feelings of inadequacy. I recently met a young woman who left her first job after a few months, even although it was a great opportunity, because she was convinced that she would be fired anyway. This was despite the fact that she had all the right qualifications and had secured the job in a highly competitive process.
At the Trust, we’re aware of some of the reasons that can cause care experienced young people to struggle with confidence. I’ve been lucky enough to have supportive, caring adults in my life who have encouraged me. Care experienced young people often don’t have access to those kind of relationships.
Another challenge is that care experienced young people as a group don’t get the same opportunities as their peers to take part in activities like sport, art, drama and music. These informal activities are important in helping us to build social skills. They also provide safe spaces for us to make mistakes and to learn from them.
We want to do what we can to address some of these issues, and our current Empowerment Grants funding opportunity is one approach to supporting care experienced young people to develop their confidence and skills.
Empowerment Grants offer groups and organisations the opportunity to apply for up to £10,000. With this funding, we’re particularly looking to reach care experienced young people who may face barriers due to protected characteristics (e.g. disability; sexual orientation; race; religion and belief; sex), as well as young people who have experience of youth justice or are looked after at home.
Empowerment Grants can support activities for mixed groups which include young people who are not care experienced. We’re asking youth organisations, sports groups and community organisations to think about how they can include care experienced young people in their activities.
By including young people in this way, organisations can help young people to increase their social networks and develop positive relationships with adults which can be so vital to improving their confidence.
My hospital stay was an important experience – a reminder of how easy it is for hard-won confidence to slip away, and an insight into the impact of losing control (albeit temporarily). Care experienced young people tell us repeatedly that they feel important decisions about their lives are made without them, and they can struggle with inconsistent relationships with adults who are not always free to show them they care.
Empowerment Grants offer one route to supporting care experienced young people to grow their confidence, speak up and increase their connections to the wider community. Please take the opportunity to think about what you can do to get involved. Read more about Empowerment Grants on our website
Carole Patrick, Programme Manager, Care Experienced Young People Programme