The role of a Foyer is to create a nurturing community learning and living environment in which young people can become resilient and self-reliant, taking time to explore who they are and what and who they wish to become.
Foyers can and should be much more than supported housing projects. They were designed in 1992 to be radical, innovative and to challenge the status quo. ‘Disadvantaged thinking’, driven by the current hostile funding climate, is squeezing the ‘foyerness’ out of Foyers and making it increasingly difficult to distinguish them from the hostels they were created to replace. We have begun to ‘reclaim’ the original Foyer ethos by restating four key principles:
- Foyers should be a destination of choice for young people rather than somewhere a young person is ‘sent’. It is difficult to establish a meaningful ‘deal’ between the young person and the Foyer if it is not freely entered into;
- The Foyer should represent a balanced community of young people at different stages of their journey. Young people should provide role models for each other, offer peer support and play an active role in the running of Foyer life;
- The Foyer should have a clear and explicit focus on learning and work. Whilst it is important for young people to acquire basic life skills, a Foyer should aspire to do more for a young person than the keys to a rented flat on benefit;
- There should be an explicit ‘something for something deal’ at the heart of the Foyer, placing a responsibility on the young person to engage, in exchange for an offer that is tailored to their specific circumstances.
As this early work has progressed, it has become clear that the Foyer approach itself is as relevant as ever. The challenge lies in its integrity being compromised by a funding model that is no longer fit for purpose. We are re-expressing the approach in a new political, social and economic context which involves learning captured from the Foyer network from the past 20 years.
The remodelled Foyer will be delivered by well qualified staff with experience across a range of disciplines, trained to use a coaching approach which encourages young people to set their own goals and avoid the dependency that tends to be created through a traditional ‘support work’ model. The Offer will draw on a tried and tested model which takes an asset-based approach – seeing young people through the lens of their strengths, talents and aspirations. We call this Advantaged Thinking.
The Foyers will offer accredited learning and employability programmes, in partnership with further education and learning providers, personal development opportunities and a range of housing options. A digital thread running through all elements of the Foyer offer will ensure that young people are able to acquire the technological skills that are essential in the 21st century labour market, thereby helping to bridge the digital divide.
To find out more, please email firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject heading Reclaiming the Foyer.