For Rachel and Joleen, two young care leavers who agreed to share their experiences, poverty is about not having the resources (like money, food, or clothes) to cover their basic needs. “I think I realise it more now that I’m older”, Rachel explained. “When you are young you don’t really pay attention to stuff like that, until you get your own place. Then, it’s a different story”. “That’s when you struggle”, Joleen adds. “You think: I had this help when I was in foster care, but now what do I do? Who do I ask for help? I think you think about it more, and it makes you more appreciative of the things that you have now.”
As Rachel and Joleen have received lasting support from the Leaving Care team, they expressed their gratitude and admitted how they would turn to them if they needed help. However, Rachel – who is not with Leaving Care anymore – acknowledged she no longer knows where else to get support from. “I wouldn’t know what to do, no. I wouldn’t know what to do to get out of this situation.” She alluded to the abrupt transition into independent living and what a daunting and overwhelming experience it was. “It’s the shock when you leave Leaving Care for me. I was 21, I didn’t know what was going on, or what to do, or anything, and then it went downhill from there”.
Over time, Rachel and Joleen have gradually gained more confidence to ask for help, but it is not without its challenges as they still struggle to receive the support they need. When reflecting on her experiences contacting services for support, Joleen explained: “You wait there (on the phone) for an hour, and they say ‘call back tomorrow’. You could ring in the morning and it’s still a 45-minute wait”. “It’s finding the courage to ask for help, then finding it, then waiting through it”, said Rachel. “It’s frustrating, and it just makes you want to give up. But you’ve got to persist”.
For Joleen and Rachel poverty is a full circle – a cycle with barriers that stop them from escaping from it. “We were talking earlier about driving lessons. Obviously, if a young care leaver was able to experience learning to drive and then buying a vehicle, the opportunities for employment expand. But it’s not easy to be able to do driving lessons and buying our own car, so we don’t have an opportunity of a bigger, wider range of employment. So even if we were to get a job, we’d have to find out how to travel there”, they add. “How are we even going to afford to travel there? It’s just things like that, and it goes round.”
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