How it all began
Patsy, who founded the charity with her husband John, shares the heartfelt story of how the charity’s creation and the series of events that made us what we are today…
“It all started with John and I being foster carers. Our own children had grown up and flown the nest and we weren’t ready to leave our parenting days behind. We wanted to give our home, love and support to less fortunate children. So that’s what we did.
For 20 years we fostered over 25 children, from babies through to teenagers. It was tough at times, but hugely rewarding. There was a family of three that came to live with us at the ages of 8, 9 and 9, and because of their unfortunate family situation, the government said they were to remain in care till they were adults which at that time was when they left school. So in some cases that might have been 16 years of age. So when the eldest was just 17, and really not ready for independent living, he left our home and ended up living in various inappropriate places including hostels, where drugs and alcohol were rife.
Childhood memories came flooding back to him and sadly he turned to alcohol which made him violent. He went downhill fast and ended up in prison. John and I visited him regularly, and it was heartbreaking to watch him get progressively worse as he continued to be surrounded by more troubled young adults. It was very distressing to see so many youngsters in there. I turned to John and said “We HAVE to do something about this!” Most 17 year olds aren’t ready to leave home at that age, especially those who’ve been through turbulent and difficult childhoods. Nowadays, it’s very common for children to stay at their family home way into their 30s. It wasn’t fair that these kids had to suffer once again.
Back then, I was Chair of the Foster Care Association in West Berkshire and knew that others felt the same, so 5 of them joined forces with John and I and we lobbied the Government to increase the age of care leavers. Disappointingly, it was rejected on two separate occasions. Determined and committed to our belief and dream that “Every child and young person deserves a nice place to live until they’re ready for independence” led to the birth of our charity, Children First West Berkshire, now called Young People & Children First. We are a bridge to independence for all care leavers who want and need us. We can positively impact future generations and save society millions of pounds, by getting these children and young adults out of the benefit system and severing the ongoing cycle of the benefit trap.
I’m eternally grateful to Greenham Common Trust, my husband John, and the founding Trustees ( George, Pauline and Ian), who have made this dream a reality. We have our first house, Cornerstone and more recently Rebecca house. You can read more about our houses and what we do here.
We are still the only place in the UK that offers such a service and we are so grateful to all our supporters, as without you, we would not be able to grow and make a difference to more of the disadvantaged young people and children out there, who would otherwise, most likely, be homeless. It soon became apparent that other young also find themselves homeless at a very young age. So if we have a vacancy and no care leaver needing our service we offer the place to them.”
2018 Rebecca House, Our second charity house became a reality
With the generosity of Sovereign Housing and particular help from Adrian Brunskill, this house was rented to us.
The house was opened by our patrons Mr John Campbell, Michelin Chef and owner of the Woodspeen restaurant, Newbury and Mrs Gillian Reid, retired Magistrate.
Nov 2015 – YPACF becomes a fully fledged charity & changed our name
Our status was changed from a charity trust to a fully-fledged, limited liability charity. This removed liability away from solely the Trustees, which was necessary for growth. This required a change of name. Our charity supports both young care leavers, aged between 16 and 25 years of age, as well as other homeless young people
Dec 2013 – Children in care in England to be supported till 21 years old
The Department for Education in England imposed a legal duty on councils to provide financial support for children in care who want to stay longer with foster carers up to their 21st birthday. This was great news, only 5 years after we initially lobbied government for it! Despite this change, foster care doesn’t always work for every young person and it doesn’t provide the intensive support and development programme that we provide, so the need for YPACF continues.
2010 – Cornerstone opens its doors!
The Hon. Mrs Bayliss JP, Lord Lieutenant of the Royal County of Berkshire opened Cornerstone in 2010.
Nov 2008 – Children 1st West Berkshire Charity Trust Established
The seven foster carers who attended parliament were acutely aware of the need to support children in care beyond the age of 18 and they decided to do something about it themselves and set up a charity trust.
June 2008 – Foster carers from West Berkshire Foster Carers Association lobby Parliament to extend foster care from 18 to 21 years of age
Seven foster carers from West Berkshire Foster Association lobbied Parliament to allow foster children to stay with their foster carers up to the age of 21. This amendment was not granted at this time.
We support Foster Care Leavers as they transition from being teenagers to being independent adults. We ensure they have all the right building blocks in place to go confidently and positively into adult life so they can reach their potential, not hindered by their troubled start. Above all, we prevent disadvantaged children and young people being homeless.
Our Current Vision
We are working towards three more houses within our 5 year business plan. To make these other homes a reality, we need your support, either through monetary donations, volunteering your time or by donating goods.
Get in Touch. Get Involved.
Thank you for taking the time to find out about our charity, Young People & Children First. We look forward to hearing from you and will respond to you as soon as we can.
7 Venture West
Greenham Business Park,
Berkshire, RG19 6HX