The end of May saw two of Portsmouth City Council's dedicated carers pass the hugely significant and spectacular milestone of 30-years providing Supported Lodgings.

Maria (63) & Rob Cross (64), who live in Fratton, have provided Supported Lodgings care for over 30 of Portsmouth’s vulnerable young people aged between 18-24 years of age over the past three decades. These young people – who have been in need of emotional support, encouragement and a safe, secure place to live – have often voiced that they’ve not wanted to leave the loving home Maria and Rob have provided them.

Maria shared with the council’s fostering service Foster Portsmouth on the day of the couple’s anniversary:

“Two of our young people, now in their 30s, actually still live with us. They both came to us at 16, which was the age you could have them from then, and they’ve never left.”

The couple’s Supported Lodgings Support Worker, Claire – who presented Maria on the day with a voucher for their favourite restaurant so they could treat themselves a little and a letter of appreciation from the Head of Service Michelle Sanders on behalf of everyone at Portsmouth City Council and Foster Portsmouth – added “No one wants to leave!”

Cllr Suzy Horton, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member of Children, Families and Education at Portsmouth City Council, commented:

“Maria and Rob’s dedication and determination is inspiring. They’ve helped so many young people from our city who find themselves in need to transition successfully from home or being in care to living independent lives.”

Cllr Horton continued:

“I would like to thank and add my congratulations to the couple for their hugely significant and remarkable milestone of 30-years of providing Supported Lodgings, equipping young people with the confidence and skills to reach their potential.”

Supported Lodgings is an arrangement whereby a young person aged 18-24 – in need of emotional support, encouragement and a safe, secure place to live – shares the carer’s home. This could be a someone who is finding living alone challenging or a little overwhelming, is unable to remain with family, is in need of somewhere more stable to live, is a young asylum seeker, or is a care leaver who requires a place to stay as a stepping stone to adulthood.

Maria has gained huge experience with children and young people as a mother, grandmother and throughout her 34-year career as a dinner lady and now as a school cleaner at St. John’s school. Rob’s career has also taken him from lorry driving to a cleaner over the 30 years. However, Maria said they originally started Supported Lodgings care as;

“We had some time on our hands and it enables us to do a bit of everything.”

As well as their current two Supported Lodgings young people, one 18-year-old girl and another 19-year-old boy, and the two still living with them, the couple also have one of their own adult daughters at home. Their walls are adorned with loving family photographs which also include their other two daughters and six grandchildren, and their playful dogs Coco and Jax run around the feet of visitors to their busy, loving home.

Maria explained that when the young people are ready to leave and become independent;

“We help them find a new place and set up things like their electric and gas. We help them put up pictures and curtain rails.”

“Becoming Supported Lodgings carers hasn’t really impacted us; we just get on with it. A lot of the young people are good as gold, and if we have any worries, we know our social worker is available by phone or there is the out of hours team. We’ve also had a lot of good training.”

Maria also shared;

“You’ve got to do fostering or Supported Lodgings because you want to. There are challenges sometimes, however it is worth it when there is a positive ending, and they’re ready to move on and can get a nice place and do it all themselves.”

Supported Lodgings carers assist with young people’s transition from home or being in care to living independently. They help them build confidence and assist with the development of everyday practical skills to prepare them for adult life including applying for work, training or education, and attending appointments, budgeting and building a support network. They help them learn how to complete simple household tasks such as cleaning, washing and healthy cooking, and in time they help them find a home of their own.

Maria and Rob still see and keep in touch with many of the young people they’ve cared for. The memories of their parting thanks and comments such as ‘I’m not leaving’ and ‘you helped save me’, reminds them of the vital support they offer.

Maria ended;

“I would say to anyone considering becoming a Supported Lodgings carer that they should definitely go ahead with it!”

Anyone aged 21+ with a spare bedroom could foster or provide Supported Lodgings with Foster Portsmouth regardless of their age, gender, faith, ethnicitysexualitymarital or work status, or whether they rent or own their own home.

Foster Portsmouth welcome all enquiries about fostering and Supported Lodgings. This could be a short or long term arrangement for a child or siblings until they’re ready to live independently or be reunited with family, support for unaccompanied children seeking asylum or children with a disabilitysupported lodgingsparent and baby placements, or respite care.

Foster and Supported Lodgings carers receive excellent 24/7 support, including through the pioneering Mockingbird model of care and mentoring scheme, local training, out-of-hours support, and competitive fees and allowances.

For more information on fostering or Supported Lodgings, please contact the fostering recruitment team on 023 9283 4071, visit www.foster.portsmouth.gov.uk or email fostering@portsmouthcc.gov.uk.