Registered Charity No. 286650. A Company Limited by Guarantee, Registration No. 1699685, England. VAT Registration No. 595 3666 89. Established 1968.







Written evidence submitted by Break


Residential Care Review                                                                                                  6th May 2021



Dear Rt Hon Robert Halfon


I am the CEO of Break, an East Anglian charity that works with young people on the edge of care, in care and leaving care. Break has been running services for over 50 years and has built up a wealth of expertise in understanding young people in residential care and worked with young people to ensure we offer the best care possible.


I write as a social worker by profession, having worked directly and indirectly with young people in residential care for 30 years. I have also been part of introducing social pedagogy into Break and been working with a group of other organisations trying to embed the approach into the sector for the last 10 years.


Break offers a pathway of in care services, from intensive solo placement children’s homes to four bedded children’s homes to an extensive leaving care service. We have been delivering a DfE Innovation Fund Staying Close project for the last three years and have a deep understanding of the issues that young people leaving residential care face. We also have specialist children’s homes for young people with disabilities.


Break offers therapeutic input into our services through a specialist team which works as a wrap around service for our homes and fostering projects. We have embedded the concepts of co-production and participation in our work and have an engaged group of young people (predominantly care leavers aged 18-22) who work with us to consider how we improve our services. They have presented to local and national professionals working in this field and some were invited to run an awareness raising session with colleagues in the DfE.


Finley (a care leaver in our Staying Close Project) wrote a letter to Minister Ford which I have added to the end of this submission. This highlights the very powerful messages young people have to share with us when we listen. His experience of leaving care was planned, positive and as smooth as it could be, but he still had no idea he needed to lock his front door at night! As a system around young people in care, we need to think about the adult who will be leaving us as much as the child/ young person in front of us.


As you will know, our system seeks to avoid residential care (Often at all costs) and a young person may have multiple placement breakdowns prior to a children’s home being considered. Thus creating more trauma and disaffection which takes time, stability, relationships and care to reverse. Although there are benefits for most young people to be in a family setting, some need what a children’s home can offer and sometimes as a first placement rather than a last resort.


Break is committed to ensuring young people in children’s homes have as many opportunities as others and we have invested in a lifelong offer – which Fin alludes to in his letter. We charitably fund a service for young people after they have left our care for as long as they need it (the oldest adult still in touch with us who was in our care is 39). The security for our care leavers that we will not disappear is critical in their future lives – we may not hear from young people for years and then life throws up a challenge or high point they need a coffee and catch up with someone who knows them and can help to re-frame and re-set them on their adult journey.


Our Staying Close project has highlighted how important the transiton from residential care is. The outcomes achieved have allowed young people to have a better start at adulthood and (as Finn states) the young adults are very aware of the support they need. Our project (independently evaluated by York/Oxford Universities) has:

The young people need projects to walk alongside them, offering opportunities and (at times) intensive support until they are ready to stand alone. One young person said of the project “they’ve changed me as a person for the better. All young people who have been through the care system deserve this”.


We have a range of young people who have experienced different care journeys who want to discuss their experiences with those in influential positions. We have a lively participation and co-production group who would be willing to talk to the review panel members if that is deemed helpful. They are keen to support those in decision making positions to understand the challenges further.


Break tries to provide that security and those relationships through our staff but there is a challenge for young people when those that they want and should (as far as society deems it) care, love and support them are not available. We work, with our therapeutic team, to help young people have realistic relationships with their families, to support them to manage and build resilience against continually abusive situations. We cannot change their families, but we can support a change in the young person’s response to family messages and situations.  Fin highlights the difficulties of the transition to adulthood without the support and availability of family. This is why Break provides an “extended” family to young people through our charitable funding.


Dear Minister Ford

Thank you for taking the time to listen to my words.

Leaving care is pretty daunting, scary and stressful.  It’s an emotional rollercoaster and I didn’t feel prepared at all. It can feel overwhelming to have so many things to think about, like where you will live, how you’ll manage and having questions about the future.  Being an adult is a really big thing and moving out is one of the most important changes in your life. Young people who have parents have that extra support that’s needed, but us that don’t have it need that parental support from somewhere else, and that is what Staying Close gives to me.

Having that support network of adults and young people makes me feel like I’m not alone. When you leave care you need somewhere that is welcoming to move in to, you need a home. I have a home, and housemates who have been through the same thing as me. I still talk to one of the members of staff from my old children’s home and if I move away from Norwich I would still want to be a part of the Break family. Most people are connected to their families throughout their lives, and Break and Staying Close is that family for those of us who don’t.

If I could change one thing about care and leaving care it would be the amount of support young people get. If it wasn’t for Break and Staying Close I would only have one call every 6 weeks from my PA, or 1 visit a month from my social worker while I was in care. I think PA’s do their best but are overworked, my PA has around 30 young people he’s supporting. If there were more PA’s they would have more time to dedicate to a smaller group of young people, and would be able to give a greater level of support. 

I think it is important to provide employment opportunities to young people leaving care. I am a trained barista on the CoffeeBreak van, which gives training and work experience to young people in Staying Close. Sometimes if you mention that you’re a care leaver some employers can be quite prejudiced and think that we’re going to cause trouble, but we need to be given a chance. CoffeeBreak has been an amazing opportunity for me to gain experience in the workplace and learn new skills.

Young people’s feedback is the most important thing. If we do change something it needs to be run past young people, because everyone is different and needs different things. Young people are the experts, we know what this feels like because we’re going through it.

If you’re ever in Norwich it would be my pleasure to serve you a coffee of your choice.

King regards,


It is fair to say that the system around young people in children’s homes needs support and investment in order to be the vital, robust and resilient resource that our young people need it to be. I would like to offer Break’s expertise to the review in if that would be helpful and would welcome a conversation at your convenience. We would be more than happy to welcome you for a visit to experience what we do at Break and meet some of our young ambasadors.


Thank you for the opportunity to share our experience


Yours sincerely


Rachel Cowdry




May 2021   

Registered Charity No. 286650. A Company Limited by Guarantee, Registration No. 1699685, England. VAT Registration No. 595 3666 89. Established 1968.