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National Care Leavers Week 22: Tyler's Story - "I didn't feel ready to leave care"

24 Oct 2022

This year National Care Leavers week, which takes place between 24 – 28 October 2022 and celebrates care leavers across the UK, is on the topic of #EndTheCareCliff with young care leavers being asked to share their experiences and asking them what needs to change to make the system better.

Tyler Jones*, 21, left care at 18 and was moved into one of Break’s Staying Close, Staying Connected flats. He shares his story below.

“I didn’t feel ready to leave care.

I had been living in a children’s home with other kids and staff, but at 18 the law expected me to suddenly leave that and live on my own.

I was lucky that I was given the option by Break to live with two other boys who understood what it was like. I hadn’t got used to my new workers yet and needed time to get to know and trust them so at first I shut them out but I really struggled with money. I’m not able to work yet and benefits aren’t much to live on. After bills and food there wasn’t much left and I’ll admit that I made mistakes. I guess most people that age do. But I wasn’t living with family and didn’t have people there I trusted so I ended up in debt.

My Break Transitions Worker Dan didn’t give up though. He kept checking in on me and eventually I trusted him enough to share more about myself and to let him help. Over time I’ve paid back what I owed which wasn’t easy when there isn’t much spare. He’s proud of me for that. He’s made a plan with me to learn everything I need to know for my next step now that I’m 21…

To move into a place on my own.

I’m still overwhelmed by the idea but I’m bidding on council properties which I was too scared to do before.

I met James, who works at Break too. He helps people to learn construction skills, small steps at a time. He helped me find out I’m actually pretty good at carpentry and maintenance!

We volunteer fixing up a community centre which is hard work but I love it and gets me a qualification. I’m hoping he can help me get a construction apprenticeship soon. My real dream is to work in the maintenance team at Break.

I still worry about living alone. Going from always having someone around to spending so much time by myself makes me anxious. I’m not used to the quiet. I worry about having the motivation to get up each day for an apprenticeship as it can feel like no one cares if I get there. I look at people who live with family who get up with them in the morning and remind them they are proud and wish there was something like that for me too. But I know I have to find that pride in myself and I’m hoping my support worker will help in the beginning at least. I really want to do well.

I was asked what I think the care system could do to make life better for people like me. These are my ideas.

  1. Change the rules so people don’t have to move out on their 18th birthday if they aren’t ready. Friends who aren’t in care don’t have to do that. It’s overwhelming so young.
  2. Make sure there is always the option for care leavers to live with other people if they want. I can't afford to rent privately with other people and do an apprenticeship and council housing is more secure. But there needs to be a middle ground like SCSC but for as long as needed.
  3. Be there with lots of support when we start new things like jobs, apprenticeships or college. It’s all brand new and doing it on your own might be too much. A few months of being there and talking any problems through like a parent would at the end of the day, or when you’re nervous to go in in the morning, could make all the difference. I want to achieve. I just need the support to get through those big changes.
  4. Make sure someone will be there for people like me forever. I know I’ll have ups and downs in my life like anyone. Care leavers deserve someone to spend birthdays with, turn to if they have kids, and might need someone to call even when they are 40 if things are hard.

Everyone should have a charity like Break that promises to be there forever."

*Names have been changed

Break launches three-year care strategy