Summer of fun for children in care thanks to Leeds businesses

Leeds, Leeds Star

Children who are looked after by Leeds City Council have been treated to a host of exciting activities and events thanks to business and organisations from across the city.

Over the past few months hundreds of children who are either in foster care, residential care or are recent care leavers have received a variety of treats, experiences and opportunities from Leeds businesses and organisations which support Child Friendly Leeds.

The invaluable support comes in many forms – from arranging activity days to providing funding or donating prizes, as well as offering work opportunities and sponsoring awards ceremonies.

Councillor Lisa Mulherin, executive member for children and families said:

“We want to make the lives of children in our care as enjoyable and fulfilled as their peers’ but without the support from these Leeds organisations this would not be possible. We are very grateful to all of the businesses and organisations which have worked with us to help improve the lives of children and young people in care.

“Everything from sponsoring our Foster Carer Awards, to donating gifts and food for a family fun day makes a massive difference for these children and young people and those who look after them.”

One group of children who are in care, were able to take part in fun and challenging activities at a Beavers and Cubs summer event, thanks to Central Yorkshire Scouts who also provided free transport for the youngsters.

Throughout the summer children in care and care leavers have been able to take part in specially designed therapeutic horse-riding sessions at the Leeds Think Like a Pony riding centre.

Young people in care were also able to hone their footballing skills thanks to the Leeds United Foundation which ran a special football skills training course. The foundation also showed their support to those who look after children in care by donating prizes and a celebrity guest to this year’s Foster Carer Awards. Also supporting awards were Stowe Family Law, who helped sponsor the event.

The Grammar School at Leeds work with Child Friendly Leeds to support children in care in numerous ways including providing an outdoor activity day for teenagers in residential care, as well as enabling over 50 looked after children and their carers to visit a comedy workshop as part of a local literature festival and providing transport to enable looked after children to take part in outward bound activities and to go on trips. This summer the school provided transport to enable a group of foster families to have a fun-packed day in Scarborough.

British Gas has been a regular supporter of Child Friendly Leeds for a number of years, sponsoring the last two Child Friendly Leeds Awards as well as donating a significant sum to this year’s Foster Carer Awards. Their Corporate Social Responsibility Strategy is aligned to Child Friendly Leeds and they have supported kinship carers to create safe and energy efficient homes.

Over the summer foster families were able to take part in a choice of special activity days including a day of Olympic themed activities thanks to One Day Creative Education and IntoUniversity, as well as outdoor activity days provided by Herd Farm and a family fun day organised by the council’s Artforms service and public health department at the Armley Lazer Centre. Families were also able to try out their ‘bushcraft skills with The Conservation Volunteers at Skelton Grange Environment Centre.’

The council’s Lineham Farm was able to host a fun day for over 130 looked after children and foster families, thanks to donations from numerous organisations, including: White Rose Shopping Centre; Sainsbury’s Headingley; Holiday Inn Express; Trinity Leeds; Haribo: Patisserie Valerie (Leeds stores); Innergy Group Ltd and; Kidz Klub Leeds.

Support for Child Friendly Leeds comes in many forms, including Blacks Solicitors who not only donated cash to the Children Looked After fund, which is managed by the Leeds Community Foundation, but also hosted a fostering and adoption recruitment event at their offices.

Leeds Rugby Foundation is also a long term supporter of Child Friendly Leeds and this year has shown its support with donations to the Foster Carer Awards.

Another sponsor of this year’s Foster Carer Awards was first direct, who also regularly offer foster families and care leavers the chance to watch shows at the first direct arena. Their support also extends to developing an employability scheme to help a group of care leavers improve their future job prospects.

As well as donating a prize for this year’s Foster Carer Awards, the Victoria Quarter has shown their support for Child Friendly Leeds and children in care, in numerous ways, including offering an employment opportunity to a Leeds care leaver. Some staff members at the Victoria Quarter have also volunteered to be ‘independent visitors’ for children in care – this is an opportunity for children in care to have a positive role model and ‘friend’ who visits them regularly.

A group of looked after children were given the opportunity to train with the Northern School of Contemporary Dance over the spring half term holidays, which culminated in a flashmob performance in Leeds city centre. A group of looked after teenagers were also able to have a go at ‘mixing some tunes’ as part of a workshop run by DJ School UK.

Several cultural opportunities have also be made available to foster families and care leavers thanks to the Carriageworks Theatre, the West Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds International Concert Season and Leeds Town Hall, which have all donated or offered heavily subsidised tickets to shows and performances over the year.

Shine Space made sure that children in care were able to get a treat this Easter, by collecting and donating over 400 Easter eggs. They also support Child Friendly Leeds with free room hire several times a year.

Around 30 care leavers ended a fantastic summer with a five day residential at the council’s Herd Farm. As well taking part in a range of exciting outdoor education activities on the amazing Herd Farm site, the group were also able to develop their independent living skills to help them move on from being in care.

Councillor Mulherin added:

“There are many ways people and organisations can help to make a difference in the lives of children who are in care. One option is to become an ‘independent visitor’, who is a role model and friend for a looked after child, or they could support Child Friendly Leeds by becoming an ambassador or helping with events. People can also donate to the ‘Looked After Children’ fund which is managed by Leeds Community Foundation. The money from this fund is used in numerous ways to improve the life chances of some of the city’s most vulnerable children.”

For more information about how to get involved with Child Friendly Leeds please see: www.leeds.gov.uk/childfriendlyleeds/Pages/How-do-I-get-involved.aspx

For more information about the Leeds Independent Visitor Scheme, please visit:

http://www.leeds.gov.uk/residents/Pages/Leeds-independent-visitors-scheme.aspx