Care Leavers’ Offer and officers visit from Royal College of Defence Studies

Along with the normal events that keep us all busy, this week has seen two interesting visits to Staffordshire County Council that I thought might interest readers:

On Friday morning, Mark Riddell visited us to discuss the Care Leavers’ Offer, the work that we undertake with our looked-after children to ensure that they enjoy as fulfilling careers and lives as possible after they leave school, college and university.  We now have a responsibility that goes out to a young person’s 25th birthday, which reflects more closely the realities of parenting; most young people turn to their parents for advice and help throughout their young adult lives, if not longer, and as corporate parents to our care leavers, we do the same, with the possible exception of doing their laundry on return from college or university.  

Mark is a fascinating person, a care leaver himself, who led the care leavers’ programme in Trafford in Greater Manchester, and was exceptional in achieving the first “Outstanding” grading from Ofsted for his efforts; his passion for the subject is evident, and I was impressed that he talked in stories to illustrate his points rather than reciting statistics – very effective and compelling.  He now works for Central Government to improve the outcomes for care leavers across the country and is visiting councils to learn what we are doing, and what we could learn from his experience.   The question to which he always returns is: “Is it good enough for your own child?” It is a simple and effective test.  I certainly learned something in how we might present our offer to our children so that it makes more sense to them, rather than as council document, and I think that he was impressed with the mentoring scheme run by Sarah Rivers, the Head of our Virtual School for Looked After Children

On Thursday afternoon, we had a visit from 15 senior military officers from the Royal College of Defence Studies (RCDS), who are in the middle of their “How Britain Works” term.  The team was highly international, everything from a Mexican Admiral to an Indian Brigadier and Albanian Colonel, and probably some of the sharpest military strategic brains on the planet.  We therefore decided to put them to work, rather than giving them a lecture, setting them the task of coming up with solutions to two of our greatest challenges: how do we raise aspiration across Staffordshire, and how do we combat isolation?  Kerry Dove from our Strategy Team led on aspiration and Vicky Rowley from Public Health on isolation, with pithy briefings and round table discussions that would not have been out of place at any military staff college.  The international perspectives were fascinating, with the parallels drawn by the female Kenyan senior civil servant between what they have done to raise aspiration in Kenya and what we might think about, striking a real chord with me.  I don’t think that we have solved the problems, but I think that we all left the session with a greater appreciation of the issues and some ideas to follow up on.    

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