We understand that selecting the most appropriate placement for a young person can be a complex process. Aspris Children's Services aims to provide Local Authority Commissioners with a comprehensive overview of our settings and services, so that you can make informed decisions about which placement is most likely to deliver lasting outcomes and value for money.
We share the below case studies from young people who attend our schools, colleges and children’s homes, as well as from our foster carers to give you a better insight into the work we do at Aspris Children’s Services.
Amy* attends Oliver House School and has profound multiple learning disabilities. She has a diagnosis of autism and complex, behaviours that challenge and is also non-verbal.
Amy slaps her head, bites herself, pulls her hair and presents other challenging behaviour to staff who intervene. Amy will attempt to eat any inedible object within her vicinity such as carpet tiles and foam from soft furnishings.
Amy is now taught in a specially created classroom which has been designed to meet her very complex needs. She is making excellent progress and is now able to access a much wider range of environments. With careful staff support Amy has learned to use objects to communicate her basic needs, can watch and listen, and will use an iPad, listen to stories or enjoy sensory toys for brief periods of time.
Simon* joined Aspris College South Wales (ACSW) with a diagnosis of Asperger Syndrome and epilepsy. He had been excluded from high school on a number of occasions for aggressive outbursts and destruction of property.
On starting at ACSW, Simon was given a dedicated Learning Support Worker. She built rapport with him, which enabled him to implement an Individual Learning Plan (ILP). This plan included coping strategies for social anxiety and self-regulation for periods of high stress. Through staff support, all outbursts ceased.
Simon completed a BTEC Construction in the Built Environment course, gaining an overall Merit and went on to study for a degree in Architecture. He is coping well and is now in his third and final year at Cardiff University, having lived in shared accommodation for the past two years.
When Craig* joined us, he was prone to disrupting the activities of other students. He was loud, opinionated, unmanageable and academically disorganised, and also experienced problems with his weight.
Successful strategies were developed to combat both his behavioural and health issues, whilst maintaining good progress in education. As a result, Craig was awarded ‘Student of the Year’ on a BTEC course at a partner college and has now progressed onto university and completed a degree in computer design.
Aspris Children’s Services first came into contact with Sarah* when she was a 13-year old schoolgirl. She had been removed from her local area due to her behaviours, staying out all night, not attending school and receiving ‘presents’ – i.e. mobile phones and clothes from an ‘older boyfriend’. Her family believed she was going ‘off the rails’ and there were significant concerns regarding her involvement in sexual exploitation.
At first, Sarah was reluctant to open up to staff members, however, as her relationships developed, she began to feel safe and disclosed details regarding her relationship with her ‘boyfriend’ and his ‘mates’. Information was recorded and reported to the appropriate authorities, whilst staff members continued to support Sarah and reassure her that she was safe and cared for. She was helped to recognise herself as a victim of a crime, not to blame for the things that had happened to her.
Particular work was undertaken with her to increase her awareness of child sexual exploitation, healthy relationships and staying safe. Activities were undertaken to promote her self-esteem.
As Sarah began to disclose the trauma of what she had suffered, it became clear and it was evident that she had been groomed and exploited by a number of men. Once she had told her story, the staff supported her in making statements to the police, undergoing medicals, as well as supporting her through the subsequent criminal prosecution, which was successful.
Telling her story was a big ordeal for her but having the courage and support was a turning point in her life. Since being enabled to face her ordeal and being supported to develop her self-esteem, she was able to focus on her future and particularly her education and her GCSEs. After passing these she went on to further education and subsequently moved on from Aspris Children’s Services, after her transition into independence was supported.
She chose to remain in the area local to her former Aspris Children’s Services home and Sarah regularly keeps in touch with staff members, who she was able to form strong and lasting attachments with. She continues in her studies and goes from strength to strength.
Brenda and Kevin’s story
Both ex-teachers, Brenda and Kevin* have been foster carers for a total of nine years, the last two of which have been with Aspris Fostering Services. Brenda had previously thought of fostering before she met Kevin, but the time was not right and she didn’t have a spare room.
However, when most of their children had grown up they were ready for a new challenge, which would allow them to use their skills both as teachers and parents, and decided that fostering was perfect for them.
When they got together they had a house full of children and weren’t looking for a career change.
Brenda and Kevin’s foster child is still with them and they feel that at Aspris, people listen and there is someone fighting their corner to get the right support they need as a family. Both Brenda and Kevin participate in all of the training that is available, including Aspris’ online training, which keeps them ticking over and is a useful prompt. They also enjoy the Aspris’ activity programme and have been on a range of summer activities, including a trip to Legoland with a coach full of foster carers, as well as both birth and foster children.
Louise* was 16 years old when she arrived at Unsted Park School and Sixth Form from a Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) Tier 4 unit, within a secure hospital provision. Louise has an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and struggled with severe anxiety.
Despite being highly intelligent and motivated to learn, Louise’s anxiety had been impacting her ability to study, as well as making life in general very difficult. Louise had still been able to attain a number of GCSEs at the hospital’s school and her future ambition was to study Medicine at university.
How we have supported Louise
From the beginning of her time at Unsted Park School, there was a focus on improving Louise’s wellbeing by helping her to manage her anxiety. A consistent approach and team of staff across the education, care and therapy services worked with Louise. They gained her trust and provided the intensive care and support Louise needed to fully re-engage with learning.
Louise had a tailored package of therapy, which gave her the tools to address her anxiety and to overcome some of the difficulties it presented. The staff team provided regular opportunities to talk about how she was feeling and discuss worries and concerns, as well as her hopes for the future.
To achieve her goal of studying Medicine, Louise first needed to take A-Levels, with the aim of securing the grades she needed to be offered a university place. Staff concentrated on developing Louise’s confidence and independence skills, so that she felt ready to learn in the community and work towards this objective. With Louise being a residential student and living at Unsted Park School five days per week, her daily living skills were further developed and continued in the care environment, as well as during the school hours.
Louise was very self-motivated and with the right support, she began to spend more time off-site. Louise took one of her three A-Levels in a local mainstream college, and with our specialist support was able to thrive academically in a busy college environment.
Achieving positive outcomes
Louise’s successful learning experience increased her confidence and she went on to take A-Levels in Biology, Chemistry and Psychology. Having also studied in the community, university began to seem like an attainable goal.
Learning in a supportive, specialist environment with the continued care of the dedicated staff team saw Louise work hard and successfully achieve an A-grade in all three A-Levels. This was a remarkable academic achievement, which meant that Louise had a range of options when it came to higher education. We are delighted that Louise has now realised her ambition and has gone on to study Medicine at university.
Louise has an exciting future ahead. As well as her academic success, she has been supported to develop the skills to live more independently, increasing her self-reliance and paving the way for a smooth transition to university. This has included learning to drive, managing her finances and cooking her own meals.
Louise credits the team at Unsted Park School and Sixth Form with playing a key role in achieving her ambition to study Medicine: “The support at Unsted Park has been fantastic and if it weren’t for the hard work of the staff, I certainly would not have developed the skills necessary to secure my place at Medical School. They really went above and beyond expectations to support me throughout. I have made many friends along the way and I am very grateful to everyone at Unsted Park – staff and students.”
When John* arrived at Queenswood School, he had been out of education for quite some time. Before this, he had been permanently excluded from school and was making some poor decisions in his local community.
For John, being able to transition back into a school environment was always going to be challenging given his past experiences of education. This coupled with a lack of understanding around his own difficulties meant that when he joined Queenswood School, John was behaving in a way that put himself and others at risk. Physical interventions were needed to keep him and others safe.
The staff at Queenswood School focused on providing John with the support he so desperately needed. A learning mentor began to work with John on a one-to-one basis. His learning was delivered off-site, close to his home and community, with regular keep-in touch days at school. The curriculum was specially adapted to better meet John’s needs and this included an increased focus on enrichment and activities that would engage John, including access to a gym and a qualified boxing instructor. Staff took a therapeutic approach, working in partnership with John to become better attuned to how he was feeling.
To fully understand John and his specific needs, the school commissioned a psychiatric assessment which diagnosed post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This was attributed to the complex trauma that he had suffered as a young boy. For John, the diagnosis meant that he was able to better accept himself and understand that what he had experienced during childhood had negatively impacted on his social, emotional and mental health needs. The school worked with John to ensure that he knew that his education was taking place in a safe environment, and that it would remain personalised to support him in his aspirations.
Since implementing these interventions at Queenswood School, the change in John and his behaviour has been dramatic. In the 2017/18 academic year, there were 28 negative incidents involving John, 10 of which were significant. In 2018/2019, this had reduced to a single negative incident.
Over the last few years, John has managed to successfully transition into school and sit his examinations. He has also secured a placement onto his chosen college course and is considering applying for an apprenticeship.
*Names have been changed to maintain confidentiality.