Published on
25 July 2022

With the Independent review of children’s social care now published, we’ve revisited the third series of our podcast and caught up with the young people who took part. 

The series was all about making change to the care system. The report paid special attention to isolation and loneliness, recognising that care experienced young people are more susceptible to the negative consequences of isolation. 
In the podcast we followed a group of care-experienced young people in Plymouth as they went about setting up a support group called Project Acorn. The reason for Project Acorn was simple: the group felt that loneliness and isolation was one of the most pressing issues affecting young people who had experienced the care system. 
As Rhi, one of the group members shared at the start of our first episode, “That initial ‘you’re going into care’ is the most isolated you’ll ever feel”. This episode explored the challenges young people faced when going into care, as well as the isolating experience of leaving care at 18. 

Our second episode followed the young people as they created Project Acorn, a group which would act as a support hub for other care experienced young people. The group consisted of fun activities for other care-experienced young people to get involved with over the summer holidays.  
In our third episode, we zoomed out to look at the bigger picture of the care system we sat down with Josh MacAllister, Chair of the Independent Review of the Care System in England to hear about what he had learned about the system and the changes he wants to see.  

Our report: how to achieve greater stability in the care system 

Similarly, our recent report “From Pillar to Post How to achieve greater stability in the care system” specifically highlighted the lack of stability young people have in the care system.  
The report found that young people in care “experience frequent change of home, school and social worker, before leaving care at 18 or sometimes younger with few people they can rely on” with one in 10 (10.4%) children in care...experienced two or more placement moves in a single year*. These findings further spotlight the loneliness and isolation that young people in care face. 

Project Acorn one year on

A year since Project Acorn launched, we caught up with the young people who ran the group and those who took part. The project ended in October, and it’s clear from the young people’s testimonies that this sort of group makes a tangible difference in tackling isolation and loneliness: 

I went along because it was something to do. I’d been to a well-being workshop and got told there was something else similar so just went. I preferred that it was run by the older group (of care experienced people), it felt like they understood our experiences and were more relatable


group attendee

Not only, did the group reduce loneliness for those taking part it also increased confidence. As Em shared: 

Running the group gave me confidence to run groups and take me out of my shell. When I look back, I didn’t think I’d be able to do it, if someone had said I’d have been running a group at the start of the project, I’d have been like no way, but I did! I did it


Group facilitator

However, when the group came to an end at the end in September 2021, the young people who took part felt that groups such as project Acorn should be sustained to prevent loneliness and isolation amongst care experienced young people in the long term. As Sam shared: 

There should be more groups for care experienced young people run by care experienced young people.


group attendee

Similarly, Em who ran Project Acorn said: 

The thing I think most is that it should have run for longer, we couldn’t really make too much of a difference in that time frame, it should be an all-round every week thing


Group facilitator

Free bus travel for young people leaving care 

In light of our work on isolation and loneliness experienced by care experienced young people, we have launched a petition calling on the government to fund free bus travel for care leavers age 18- 25 in England. 
Currently, the average cost of a weekly bus pass over £18, for a young person receiving Universal Credit, this is roughly one third of their allowance. 

For young people leaving care, becoming independent with limited family support can feel lonely and daunting. With free access to transport, young people leaving care would have a lifeline. Free transport would allow access to friends, hobbies, training, and jobs. It could mean getting to an interview with ease, meeting a friend for coffee or getting to a hospital appointment on time.  

Add your name to our petition today, to support giving care leavers the independence they need to build a brighter future. 

*Calculated on 31 March 2019  

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