Our Director of Barnardo's Scotland, Martin Crewe, talks about our Gap Homes development for young people leaving care.
This Christmas a young care leaver will be cosy and warm in a new home built by Barnardo’s. They will be occupying the first of our ‘Gap Homes’ in Renfrewshire – a development that I am terrifically proud of.
However I would like to make clear straight away that the dynamic force behind this development is Elizabeth (Biff) McShane. One of our former trustees used to say that charities should regularly ask themselves: “What do you feel angry about?” I was reminded of this when I saw Biff give a presentation about the origins of Gap Homes.
When Biff worked for our 16+ leaving care service in Glasgow many years ago, she was working with a young man, showing him around the two flats that were on offer. Neither of the options were attractive but she had to advise him that if he didn’t take either of them, then he would make himself voluntarily homeless, and he would have no further accommodation options. Despite the intervening years, Biff’s continuing anger at the lack of good housing options for care leavers is what has driven the development of Gap Homes.
The name originally came from wanting to build our houses on gap sites. These are the small patches of land in all our towns and cities that are too small to be commercially attractive for development but could be suitable for placing a couple of houses on. Biff realised that small timber-framed houses would be ideal for the purpose and could enable the occupants to be right in the heart of the community.
Since then we have recognised that the name Gap Homes is also relevant to the young care leavers themselves. Too often they have to deal with a gap that opens up in front of them as they transition from care. Our consultation with young people identified that a period of stability of up to two years could make a huge difference. Our Gap Homes can provide this bridge.
I was very impressed when I visited our first two Gap Homes in Renfrewshire. They are designed to be highly energy efficient and make best use of the space. The location is also really good and will allow the young people to fit unobtrusively into the community.
We won’t be taking on Barratt anytime soon but we do plan to build more Gap Homes and Biff is now leading on this exciting and innovative work across the UK.
Find out more about our work with young people leaving care.