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Criminal Care? · 19 Jul 2018

Enriching children’s lives in Hampshire

One of the children’s homes providers we feature in our new briefing ‘Hearts and heads: good practice in children’s homes’ is Hampshire County Council. When we visited two of Hampshire’s children’s homes in April, we were told about something they call an “Enrichment List”. We hadn’t seen anything like this in any of the other homes we’d visited and we were fascinated to learn what was included on the list and the philosophy behind it.

The lists, which vary by home and age groups, are a collection of activities, skills and experiences that homes endeavour to “tick off” for every child. They are an essential component of Hampshire’s corporate parenting strategy, fulfilling a range of objectives, including:-

  • They allow children who have grown up in care to feel, and say, that they did everything that a “normal” child would do in their childhood e.g. splashing in puddles, flying a kite and seeing the sun rise;
  • They include the kinds of things a parent would put in place for a child e.g. going on a picnic, a trip to the zoo and visiting museums;
  • They help develop essential skills, competencies and confidence e.g. baking a cake, setting up an e-mail account and learning to drive;
  • They encourage children to go out into the world and try new things e.g. riding a horse and going on a plane;
  • They encourage the development of relationships between staff and children e.g. eating fish and chips on the beach and ice-skating;
  • They encourage a feeling of kindness and citizenship e.g. volunteering, making cards, giving presents and sending flowers;
  • They put an emphasis on fun e.g. decorating a room for Halloween, going to a live sporting event and playing crazy golf;
  • They help prepare children for adulthood e.g. opening a bank account, a part-time job, cooking a three course meal and getting a passport.

Activities are divided into categories according to expense: free/minimal cost; cost; expensive/costly. Staff work hard with tight budgets in order to enable their children to enjoy the most expensive activities as well as the free ones, for example, they shop around for the cheapest flights and special offers and they club together with other homes to book out campsites so as to spread the risk.

They encourage input from the children and young people, asking them what they want to do and discussing and negotiating the available resources; decisions are made jointly over sacrifices that can be made so that more expensive treats can be enjoyed.

The manager in one home told us how hard she and her team worked to make sure every boy left with their driving licence and of how they had managed to get the cheapest flights to Glasgow so that all their boys could go there and watch a football match. A staff member in another home told us how moving it had been to take a child out to buy their first pair of wellies and how hesitant and then delighted he had been to run around in the mud for the first time in his childhood – he now enjoyed regular long, muddy walks with a staff member and her dog.

 Children are encouraged to move out of their comfort zones with the right support

The question of risk came up in both homes; staff were keen that children should not be held back by risk assessments and the children’s own fears. They talked about encouraging children to move out of their comfort zones with the right support and of how important it was for children to be able to take positive risks, for example, doing “normal” things like go-carting and paintballing. A boy in one home was afraid of flying but wanted to visit a family member in America; visits were arranged to a local airport and a short trip on a plane was booked to help him overcome in fear.

The local authority recently held a regional conference for its children’s homes managers at which they discussed the importance of “enrichment”. On of the managers that we met, Jo Dunn, blogged about their discussions:

“We spent the day dissecting the quality standard ‘enjoy and achieve’ (standard 4). It quickly became apparent just how passionate everyone in the room was about the holistic education of the children in our care. We all felt that standard 4 is pivotal in supporting our children to become independent young adults who have a functional role within society. The message from every home is that we owe it to our children to ‘get this right’ as for many this is the last part of their childhood.

“The morning was spent examining current practice across all 11 homes – what we do and how we do it. This moved on to ‘blue sky’ thinking around the holistic education of the children in our care which included international trips, driving lessons, part-time jobs, hobbies, and calculated risk taking.

“The discussion then turned to the barriers we face, especially with the aspirational activities and what we could do as a service to overcome these barriers. It was felt by everyone is the room that a well rounded holistic education is vital to ensure our children leave us with the ability to thrive in adulthood.

“Over lunch the staff networked and continued to discuss how we can ensure our children are given the opportunities that every child deserves – the phrase ‘rite of passage’ was used throughout the day.

“To end the day, we explored how we can encourage all the staff within our homes to offer activities. There are some action points from the day that include sharing risk assessments and resources as well as creating a mailing list. Sharing the risk assessments and resources will not only give staff fresh ideas but also reduce the workload of providing new activities.  The mailing list will be used as a way of sharing these but also give staff the contact to bounce ideas off one another when trying to overcome barriers.

“The passion and drive shown yesterday was inspiring and I left the conference on a high. It shone through that the children in our care are cared about not cared for. The teams’ dedication to our children is incredible. Stories of staff getting into work at 5am to take children on day trips were recounted throughout the day. I feel privileged to serve our children and work alongside such an incredible group of people.”

Please click here to see an example list for older teenagers and one for pre-teens/younger teens. If you are interested in exploring this further you can email and we would be happy to put you in touch with a contact at Hampshire County Council.

Claire Sands

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