TACT is delighted to announce that it has received a grant from the Big Lottery Fund to continue the TACT Connect service for four years, ensuring that we can continue to provide much needed support for our care experienced people across England.
TACT believes that parenting does not stop at 18, 21 or 25. We have a lifelong duty of care towards our foster children. TACT Connect is an innovative new scheme that aims to address the high levels of isolation and mental health issues affecting those that have left care, by offering a lifetime support network for those who have been fostered through TACT, promoting and creating opportunities and facilitating peer mentoring. There are currently 150 TACT Connect members and this is constantly growing.
TACT Connect Coordinator Verity Lindley said: “Care experienced adults are already vulnerable to social isolation and the pandemic is only making the problem worse. Thanks to this money from the Big Lottery Fund, we can start to build a supportive community with continued access to information, support, opportunities and life-long friendships. It is vital that we do better to ensure care-experienced adults are supported and celebrated.”
Though each care leaver has had a unique journey through the care system and beyond, TACT recognises that they are a community with shared experiences, who often face discrimination, disadvantage and specific challenges. In comparison with their peers, care experienced people are more likely to be unemployed or not in education or training, with over a third of 19-year-old olds being in this category (Department of Education 2015).
Mental health issues are also prevalent; one in four care experienced people have faced a mental health crisis since leaving care (Barnardo’s 2017). Both isolation and lack of opportunity are issues that have become more urgent due to the pandemic.
TACT CEO Andy Elvin said: “It’s important as a parent that you stay in touch with and support your children throughout their lives. The state can be a not so great parent because once people have left care at 18 or 21, it doesn’t know what’s going on in their lives. So, TACT Connect is our way of addressing that and we are very grateful to the Big Lottery Fund for enabling the service to grow”.
TACT Connect is driven and shaped by its care-experienced community and six of its members have recently been appointed as special Advisers, tasked with using their experience of the care system to ensure the service meets the needs of other care experienced people.
When Jarra, one of the TACT Connect Advisers, left care and her foster family at 18, it was an overwhelming experience, and she suffered bouts of loneliness.
Jarra says: “I know how difficult it can be to leave care and your foster family, so I understand the problems that new care leavers often face, and I look forward to sharing with them how I coped. I also want to show them that there is a lot of help out there, especially from TACT Connect, which can give them the chance to meet new people with similar experiences and provide advice and support with things like education, careers, and independent living”
TACT Connect Adviser, Iqra, says: “Feelings of isolation are affecting everyone and for care leavers this can be amplified. In my new role as a TACT Connect Advisor, we are all working together to keep everyone connected. I consider this role to be so important. I have been through similar experiences as the young people who are part of the group and I hope this allows them to feel seen, heard and understood.”