What is Lifelong Links?
6 minute read
Lifelong Links aims to ensure that a child in care has a positive support network around them to help them during their time in care and into adulthood.
‘Relationships and long term social connection is the cornerstone to child and family welfare’
(Isabelle Trowler, Chief Social Worker for Children and Families, (July 2016) Putting Children First, Department for Education)
The Lifelong Links model includes tools and techniques for Lifelong Links coordinators to use to search for and find family members (known or unknown to the young person) and other adults (such as former foster carers or teachers) who care about the young person. This network is then brought together in a Lifelong Links family group conference to make a life-long support plan with, and for, the young person. The local authority should integrate the Lifelong Links plan into the young person’s care plan and social workers should work with the young person and their support network during their childhood and transition to adulthood.
Watch this short animation which describes the Lifelong Links process, produced by Hertfordshire County Council and their young people
The Care Inquiry (2013) conducted by eight voluntary organisations operating in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, concluded that the greatest failing of the care system and associated child welfare procedures is that they too often break, rather than build, relationships for children in or on the edge of care.
Children aged 10 to 17 years are the single biggest age group of looked after children. They are also the age group most likely to be subject to multiple placements. This instability has multiple impacts on young people:
- Some cease to invest in building relationships with their new carers, thus inadvertently sabotaging the placement.
- Many use social media to search for relatives putting themselves at risk of further rejection or abuse.
- The confused identity of young people in care can lead to them making attempts to run away from care.
Yet research shows that stability and support from their family and community are the most important ingredients in young people making a successful transition to adulthood (DfE, 2014). The failure of the care system to work more effectively with families when children enter care and throughout their time in care too often leaves young people without positive informal support networks to fall back on economically and emotionally. This can result in loneliness, destitution, mental ill-health and engagement in self-destructive or risky behaviours.
By offering Lifelong Links soon after a young person enters care, Lifelong Links aims to ensure those social networks can be available for them in care, providing stability during their childhood and support as they become adults.
Watch what Lifelong Links meant to me: Sandy’s story
Watch what Lifelong Links meant to me: Sammie’s story
A big thank you to:
Abby, Sammie and Sandy who were willing to share their own personal story and the impact Lifelong Links has had on them.
Family Rights Group is excited to be working with the Innovation Unit on the Always Hope project to offer Lifelong Links to care experienced young adults in prison and on release. The aim of the service is to help connect or reconnect young people who were previously in care with a network of people who care about and can support them.
For young people serving shorter sentences (under a year) the task will be to identify a network that can support them on their release from prison, helping to make a smoother transition and reduce the likelihood of reoffending.
For young people serving longer sentences (over a year) the aim will be to connect them with a network of people that can maintain contact and support them while they are serving their sentence, and beyond on their release.
The project is being piloted in the West Midlands with specially trained Lifelong Links coordinators from Birmingham Children’s Trust and Coventry City Council and will be independently evaluated. The Prison and Probation services are supportive partners with an ambition to extend and mainstream the project across all prisons in England.
This exciting development of Lifelong Links is being supported by Esmée Fairbairn foundation, Barrow Cadbury Trust and the Ministry of Justice.