We knew that the pandemic and lockdown that followed was going to be particularly difficult for care leavers, who sometimes lack the family support networks many of us benefit from. That’s why we launched Listening Works, which provides evening phone, text and web chat support for care leavers aged 18-30.
More than 1000 people called us in the first 18 months after the service launched. Here we speak to some of them, who explain exactly why it works so well for them.
It’s approachable and jargon-free
Family Action aims to ensure that we’re approachable and speak plainly and without jargon as much as possible to ensure that people don’t feel patronised or uncomfortable.
One caller told us: “I spoke to genuine humans, not people who are so constrained by rules and the need to appear professional that it sounds like you’re communicating with a robot or someone reading scripted responses. This might seem like a minimum requirement for a good supportive listener but honestly, it is rare to find”.
“I spoke to genuine humans, not people who are so constrained by rules and the need to appear professional … this might seem like a minimum requirement for a good supportive listener but honestly, it is rare to find”
It’s open when people need it
The helpline was designed from the ground up following conversations helping care leavers in our other services, such as Friendship Works. This affects every aspect of the service – even up to our decision to run the service in the evenings.
As one listening works contact told us: “Your line opening times are well thought out. Evenings are often the hardest, loneliest time and the time where most other support services (other than the Samaritans) are shut”.
Our volunteers really care
Our volunteering process involves support and guidance and regular training opportunities because we want to ensure we attract people who are committed to supporting people.
In the case of Listening Works, we go further and aim to ensure that volunteers have experience of care, to ensure they’re credible and caring for those who call.
For example, one care leaver told us: “I didn’t feel rushed, pushed away, patronized, or fobbed off with unwelcome suggestions like ‘try taking a bath’ or ‘try mindfulness’. The ‘agents’ were happy to talk with me as much as I wanted to, and were also quick to respond on the online chat, so I knew I had their full attention. It is so refreshing to not be made to feel like you’re taking up too much of someone’s time. That is just what care experienced people need – to not feel like a burden”.
We’re committed to long term support
We know that people don’t cease to be care leavers just because they’re no longer children, and as such we aim to ensure we support people as long as we can and respect where the person is on their journey.
As one caller told us: “It goes up to age 30. Awesome! Every other service turns you away once you’re 25 (as if the trauma of childhood leaves with childhood) and also when they are so ‘youth’ orientated they tend to talk to you like you’re a much younger child, (even if you mention being 24), and freak out too much around safeguarding and risk assessing”.
“It is so refreshing to not be made to feel like you’re taking up too much of someone’s time. That is just what care experienced people need – to not feel like a burden”.
We put the caller first
Our commitment to genuine co-production – where we build our services around those that use them – means that we don’t bring an agenda with us, and we allow Listening Works users to lead the conversation.
For example: “The volunteers were not afraid to ask me questions or joke about a bit and I felt welcome to share whatever I wanted to, even if it was a bit heavy. It made me feel secure that I was connecting with another human, and also that I was genuinely welcome and engaged with, whatever I wanted to bring up. My language wasn’t policed and I didn’t feel like someone was using therapy to make me feel different to how I felt. (which is the worst) ”.
If you are a care leaver aged 18-30 and think any of the above sounds like what you’re looking for, or if you simply feel you’d benefit from a chat with our friendly, care-experienced staff, take a look at our Listening Works page for details of how to contact us.