Date: 9 December 2021

At the recent CoramBAAF Health Group Conference we heard from inspiring and dedicated speakers, with several sharing personal and moving stories of their experiences of life changing injury, trauma and recovery, and/or time spent in care.

The Climbing Out Team opened the day. They described the key features of their programmes that help to build layers of resilience and develop tools that assist people to take back control of their lives after facing adversity. The impact evidence included interesting reference to the importance for the programme participants of identity, of feeling normal and “shifting limiting beliefs”.

This theme resonated with the presentation made by Aine Kelly. She discussed her research exploring the ability of the care system to meet the health needs of young people who are looked after, and also reported how children in long term foster care had expressed the importance of “being normal”. Attendees heard many ideas and very practical messages about where health services could improve the provision of statutory health assessments. You can read more in Aine’s short article in the BMJ and we will all look forward to hearing more about this illuminating research in the future.

It was very positive to hear contributions from a selection of health professionals and teams that are currently implementing ideas and changes to improve services for children and young people in care. These were all examples of very local or regional projects.

One nursing team shared the film they had made with young people giving better information about health assessments. Other teams reported on how they had adapted their services in response to the pandemic. A mental health team in the South East described the development of an excellent guide - Children in Care shared agreements.

Portsmouth services were able to share their trauma informed model of care for UASC. Their work has included development of some very helpful tools, and the team described their “fast feet” running project.

The surprise emergent theme of the day was the very significant impact of poor sleep on wellbeing. This was mentioned by nearly all our presenters and it is likely that we will return to this as a specific topic for a learning event in the future.

We were priveleged to hear a first hand account of the impact of housing on mental health. Bekah Pierre shared her story of living in unregulated accomodation when she was 16. She reminded us that 6000 young people aged 16-17 years are living in this type of accomodation today. Her messages to health professionals were powerful and a read of her published article Revisiting Diary Entries from Care: An Exposition of the Challenges of Unregulated Placement Settings is recommended.

Our final presentation of the day was from Tom Brown, CEO of The Green Light Trust. An organisation which aims to “Build Health Hope and Happiness through the Power of Nature” and campaigns for equality of access. Tom was able to give a detailed account of how the impact of the work of their green care projects has been evaluated and provides essential information for commissioners.

We started the day transported to the ocean and mountains with tales from Climbing Out, we ended in the forest with the Green Light Trust. In between other speakers referenced the postive impact on wellbeing of sport, the arts and the outdoors. In Tom’s presentation he helpfully highlighted key aspects of the trust’s work which reflected much of what was discussed during the day - “it’s about staying in people’s lives, giving people a platform to build from and ensuring people know that someone cares”.

Listening to Aine and Bekah in particular I was left feeling - still a long way to go, so much that is not right or fair……. but hope that the Climbing Out motto will linger in people’s minds:

“It’s not about saying I can’t, it’s about saying ‘How can I?’”


Ellie Johnson, Health Consultant, CoramBAAF