Helping other care leavers in Hull during the coronavirus crisis

By Mark Jones | 21 April 2020

It’s easy to get caught up in the first-world problems created by coronavirus as we complain to each other on social media about cancelled holidays, pasta shortages and whether to wear a tie during video conference calls.

But now more than ever, we should be thinking about more vulnerable people who are truly feeling the isolating effects of social distancing.

That is exactly what a group of Hull care leavers are doing right now – and I can’t sufficiently express my pride for these bright young people.

Our young “regeneration champions” – members of Hull City Council’s brilliant Room 42 initiative – have organised a walk-by food hub to help other young people in their position who may be struggling to get enough food and essentials during these difficult times.

Room 42 is a wonderful Hull City Council project providing a place for young people to meet and have their voices heard.

These young people are producing and delivering food and care packages made up from donations from major organisations in the city to support the vulnerable care leavers in our community.

Items are being collected at a window at The Guildhall to ensure social distancing advice is followed. They are even arranging deliveries for those who are isolated or unable to travel.

When the Government’s tougher social distancing measures were announced, one of our main concerns was how we would sufficiently support young people in the city who have left care and are on the path to independence.

These young people can sometimes feel isolated and alone at the best of times, so we wanted to try to help maintain as much consistency as possible for them. We asked ourselves how we could help people facing situations with limited resources.

This project is providing food, toiletries and outreach services to these young people on a daily basis to try to alleviate at least some of the stress they may be facing during this difficult time.

We decided that the best people to lead the project was the users of Room 42 who are themselves care leavers.

These dynamic, ambitious young people don’t want some stuffy old men in suits telling them what they need and do not need. They want to be helped by people who understand their needs and their experiences.

The response has been extremely positive. We have been making more than 20 donations every day to young people in need of everyday essentials and we have no plans to stop any time soon.

We are immensely grateful to companies including supermarket chain Morrisons and local food producer Cranswick, which have provided food and essential items to be passed on to the care leavers. Hull charity Nurture a Child has donated toiletries, while Q4CL, which provide quilts for our young people, has also made generous donations.

Now the Room 42 regeneration champions are looking at creating a dedicated radio channel, with content both presented by and designed for care leavers – they have told me in no uncertain terms they don’t want old fogies like me on the mic.

This is something we would do for our own young ones without thinking twice, so we must do it for those for whom we are acting as corporate parents.

On a personal level, the Room 42 project that means a great deal to me. The young people have chosen the diamond as their symbol and I was touched when they invited me to add it to my Twitter handle. The diamond is a symbol of purity and innocence, but also of strength and resilience – just like these young people.

I am saying nothing new when I say that these are odd times for us all, but this project sets an example for us all.

For more information about the walk-by food hub, call 07540 672676 or follow @GhRoom42 on Twitter.

Mark Jones is director of regeneration at Hull City Council

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