Menu Close

National Care Leavers Week 2022

To celebrate ‘National Care Leavers week’, Pathways and our Participation Team hosted Halloween themed events for our care leavers, to come together, have fun and relax.

Care leavers enjoyed: pumpkin carving, apple bobbing, putting their hands in mystery boxes to guess the objects (lots of screams were heard- including the boys), completed a quiz about celebrity care leavers and listened to some classic Halloween tunes! They were given prizes of Halloween socks, Halloween tattoos and lots of chocolate and sweets. After each session the care leavers received an affirmation card from Pathways, with a lovely message about what they have achieved.

The final part of the celebration, care leavers were invited to an evening meal to celebrate everything they have accomplished, and a chance for us to show they how proud we are of them.

It’s been a lovely week, spending time with these amazing young people that have made us laugh A LOT! To all Middlesbrough Care Leavers, we are proud of you, and YOU MATTER!”

I need everyone to take just a couple of minutes to think about carers – this isn’t just about Adult Social Care, it’s relevant right across the Council.   We’re not talking this time about the carers we employ and pay to support vulnerable people, we’re talking here about informal carers…… the hundreds of thousands of adults, and sometimes young people, across our country who find themselves in the position of providing care and support to family members, friends and relatives. 

Often when we attend training it’s easy to think about the subject as being about things that happen to other people, a subtle “them and us” can creep in.  This however is not so with the topic of carers as there is no “them”, it’s just “us”.  In our lifetimes most of us will be informal carers or the recipients of informal care, many of us already are or have been carers.   

On many occasions carers don’t even realise that they are carers; often people say “I’m not a carer, I’m a husband”, or, “I’m a daughter”.  Sometimes the very use of the word “carer” causes pain because it forces the carer to acknowledge that their relationship with their loved-one is more complicated and challenging than they would have expected or hoped it to be.  On the other hand, for some carers the recognition is liberating as it validates how challenging their life has become.  

Given the complexity hinted at above it becomes clear that the challenge facing us is not only the challenge of our legal duty to identify and provide support to carers in order to make their roles sustainable.  I would argue the bigger challenge is the ethical one of how we recognise the human challenges that we all face not only as professionals, but also as sons; daughters; mothers; fathers; brothers; friends; colleagues to really listen to and consider our shared experience as carers or as recipients of care.   

Please do consider the fascinating rage of training that’s being made available, the more we understand the different dimensions of caring, the better we will be at recognising and supporting the carers that our town and communities rely so heavily on.   

The sessions are about two hours long and take place via Teams and are at varying times and days of the week. The sessions aim to improve carer awareness among colleagues, who may be in a caring role themselves, or would like to know what services are available to support carers locally.  MBC staff: To find out more or to book a place on one of the carers training sessions click here.  

Thank you  
Erik Scollay

I can’t believe that it is nearly Easter as it doesn’t seem many days since we powered up our laptops at the beginning of 2022. I’ve been thinking back and I have to say that am truly amazed at all of the hard work that has everyone across the whole of Children’s Services has undertaken over the last three months. I can see this in so many ways such as through our performance and audit reports, comments from colleagues in partner agencies, good practice celebrated during our regular Tuesday morning briefings and perhaps most importantly feedback from children, young people and their families. I haven’t forgotten Ofsted of course and we have done really well with a positive Monitoring Visiting letter published in January and another visit that took place only a couple of weeks ago.

This doesn’t mean that there hasn’t been challenges along the way many of which have been exacerbated by the effects of COVID. I am sure that we can all name more than one such as the number of young people being excluded from our secondary schools, the significant rise in requests for Education, Health and Care assessments and the scarcity of placements for our looked after children. There is also a great deal of work to do such as taking forward new government initiatives and the prospect of a full Ofsted inspection later on in the year.   

Many of you will know the African proverb ‘It takes a village to raise a child’ and for me this means that when a child is born the entire community needs to wrap around them and support them with care, love and respect to become a happy, healthy, and fulfilled individual. I like to draw a parallel with our work in Children Services as it takes everyone from every discipline to ensure that Middlesbrough’s children can achieve everything they deserve and more. ‘Middlesbrough Children Matter’.

Thank you to everyone for all of your hard work and your support. I hope that you all have a really lovely Easter holiday time. ‘Middlesbrough Children Matter’ and so do you!

Kind regards,


We know that children and young people who enjoy reading are three times more likely to have better mental health than those who don’t.  We also know that reading encourages children to dream about their future and, according to research by the National Literacy Trust, can greatly boost their average lifetime earnings.

But developing this enjoyment and love of reading isn’t just the responsibility of schools, and it’s never too early to start! Babies are born sociable and come into the world with a willingness to communicate and learn.  and it’s the experiences in their early years that shape their future social, communication and learning skills.  Did you know that the majority of brain development occurs in the first three years of a child’s life? Babies need stimulation and attention to make the most of this opportunity and this is not as daunting as it may first sound.  Stimulation comes from simple, everyday activities such as talking, listening, singing and sharing books together. 

Storytelling and reading books together are easy ways to have regular talking time. Storytelling introduces new words, structure and language patterns that help form the building blocks for reading and writing skills. Reading aloud combines the benefits of talking, listening and storytelling within a single activity and gets parents and carers talking regularly to their children.

Books introduce children to the exciting world of stories and help them learn to express their own thoughts and emotions.  During the Covid-19 pandemic we know that there was an increase in numbers of children turning to books as a way of escaping to another world, to help them forget about what was going on for a little while.

Reading to and with children shouldn’t stop when they start school, regular reading at home has a huge impact on academic attainment too. Parental attitudes, behaviours and beliefs play an important role in influencing reading motivation and achievement in young children, helping them to develop positive reading habits and attitudes towards reading.

If you are a parent of a child please, please, please read to them every day, even for just 10 minutes – it really will give them the best start to life!

If you support families with children, please encourage them to develop a regular reading habit – the libraries have lots of fabulous books waiting to be taken home and shared.

Allison Potter

Welcome to Practice week.

We are going to be focusing on the individual identity of the Children and Adults that we work with them and how we speak with and work with them. I am pleased to be here and I know that there is a great programme ahead of us. I certainly hope to attend as many sessions as possible.

I would like to take a few minutes of your time to talk about the words that we use everyday. So, is it language that changes? Is it the way we use it that changes? Or is it both?

Words like dull, plump, lack, limited, loose, battered, sin, are words that we use every day and they are fine to use in the right context but what if the context is the wrong one.

So some examples,

Most of you will know that I hate the acronym LAC and I strongly and proactively discourage its use however, CiN – Children in Need – is awful too but I have had less success with demoting that acronym. Why? 

I trained as a social worker when the phrase ‘Battered Babies’, had only just gone out of fashion and it was still all over people’s files. Neglect and sexual abuse were simply not recognised.

To take us back slightly further, I worked with adults who had been adopted to support them in gaining access to their Birth Records (it was mandatory back then) and I was often asked to look back at the records of people born in the 1960s – the so-called age of ‘liberation’. Birth mothers were described as ‘dull’, ‘Mother is a dull woman with no prospects’. ‘Mother is plump and plain’. Even as adults their birth children were devastated to hear their birth parents described in that way.

So remember that what you write and say leaves an indelible mark on people’s lives and one day children will come back and read what is written, or hear what is said about them. Can I urge you to write as though the child is sat on your shoulder, write as though the family is looking over your shoulder and describe people in a way that you yourself would be able able to accept and process.  

Language is Powerful and we must use it positively to shape the future.

Thank you.

Hello everyone,

My name is Sue Butcher and I am the Executive Director of Children’s Services in Middlesbrough.  I feel both enormously privileged and proud to be in this role.   

Thanks to COVID we are all much more familiar with working virtually than we were 2 years ago; dining rooms and lofts have been transformed into home offices and most of us don’t have to trek into work every day of the week. However, the concept of the Virtual Schools existed long before COVID. So, if the Virtual School does not have its own bricks and mortar, and children and young people do not have to get on a bus to get there by 9am 5 days a week, what does it look like? What does it do? Who is it for and what makes the Virtual Schools in Middlesbrough & in Redcar and Cleveland particularly special? 

So think of the Virtual School as a school without walls where a team looks outwards working cooperatively and collaboratively to grow partnerships between education settings and the local authority so that they can work together to improve children’s lives. What I mean by that is people working in schools and people working in Children’s Services) work together as people who care about children. It is all about relationships.

Virtual Schools have been looking after the learning of looked after children for many years although the role of the Virtual School Head only became statutory in 2014. (I met my first Virtual School Head in 2007 – yes, I am that old!) However, from September 2021 Virtual School Heads are asked by the Department of Education (I think that is ‘asked’ in inverted commas) to become strategic leaders for all ‘children with a social worker’.

Let’s unpick that phrase a little – Children with a Child in Need plan? Yes. Children with a Child Protection plan? Yes. But let’s go further and dig down into the detail a little more.

Think about children who have experienced significant adversity and trauma in their lives. 

Think about children from complex family circumstances.

Think about children who have experienced multiple changes in their lives, moving schools, moving homes, moving families, moving houses, moving continents – What is it like to pitch up on a beach in Kent having survived a perilous journey in a flimsy dingy knowing you will never see your family again?  

Think about Middlesbrough where 39% of children live in in low-income families,  higher than in any other geographical area in England and it is getting worse year by year and 48% of neighbourhoods fall into the worst nationally for child poverty and think about Redcar & Cleveland where 30% fall into the same group.

If you were one of these children wouldn’t you want the support of a Virtual School? I would.

The Virtual School is REAL, it is making a REAL difference to the lives of children and young people in Middlesbrough and Redcar and Cleveland. Enjoy the day and see for yourselves just what I mean.

Thank you,


So ho ho ho it’s that time of year everyone, it’s the festive season! We wish you a merry Christmas and a happy new year. Tis the season to be jolly! One of our fabulous social worker’s mum has brought in over 300 Christmas jumpers for young people to wear on Christmas jumper day and for Christmas we owe her a big thank you for providing these for young people as young people would not have otherwise participated with Christmas jumper day; it is such a kind gesture! Also under way is the care leavers Christmas day lunch it is in full swing of bringing young people who would be lonely on Christmas and giving them a full experience of Christmas.

Have a great festive season,

From Xavier

Are you looking for more information about our BIG TAKEOVER? You’ve come to the right place!

On the week starting 22nd November, 50 young people aged from 13-18 (and up to 25 if they have SEND or are a care leaver) will be taking over from senior officers in Middlesbrough Council! Senior officers will think of a challenge they have, and young people will help them with this.

If you are a young person and think this would be a great opportunity to improve skills and get valuable work experience, but feel a bit nervous, don’t worry! You will receive a free accredited Confidence and Leadership workshop, which will give you the boost you need to go in, be confident, and show them who’s boss! You will be working 3 half days during the week, and will be working closely with the senior officer and their team. So what are you waiting for? Sign up here!

If you are a head of service in Middlesbrough Council, you can sign up here! You can email or for more information about your challenge! No matter which part of the council you come from, we want to hear from you!

If you have any questions at all, please email Get signing up people!

Hi everyone!

My name is Xavier Davies and I work in Middlesborough Council as an Apprentice Youth Training and Development Officer. My role is to have a look at training and make sure it is youth friendly, for example, I make sure staff don’t use acronyms that young people don’t understand.

This post is going to be an introduction. I am a care leaver formally with Middlesbrough and expressing my views and other young people’s wishes is something I’m really passionate about. Here is some more information about what I do, what my role is and what my day to day life is like as an apprentice.

So my day to say life is thinking of projects and looking at training and policies and procedures and making them youth friendly but also keeping young people voices at the center of every project or pieces of work that I do.

So this week I have talked to Laurie hunter who is a participation officer and she focus on keeping the voice of the child in everything she does, meanwhile we have been talking about blogging for young people and blogging for staff.

In terms of blogging for young people, we have talked about giving out recipes and then also how to batch cook and how to make a meal on a budget. We have also talked about social workers to do a video celebrating young people, and sharing their achievements.

What Project is Coming Up This Week?

The project coming in this week is that I am going to the Virtual School Meeting, where I’ll be having a look at virtual school to see what they do and then see how they perform in different areas. Then, we are able to give feedback of what is working well and what isn’t.

Upcoming Event for Young People

GET OWT (Outside With Toddlers) Tickets, Multiple Dates | Eventbrite

Recipe for cheese scones!

Cheese scones recipe – BBC Food

See you soon!

Xavier Davies