Relational Practice – Peer Learning Programme Overview

Relational Practice – Peer Learning Programme Overview


There is more and more evidence that relationships are the key to supporting young people in and leaving care to thrive and flourish. A focus on relationships is also a growing trend in UK government policy. The Independent Care Review for England, published in summer 2022, argues that relationships should be at the heart of the children’s social care system, and that for those with care experience, the state should ‘obsess over creating loving networks of people around them, to provide the support and care that every one of us needs as the foundation for a good life’.

Genuinely delivering the aspiration that relationships should be at the heart of the care system requires a focus on the practice of working relationally – what does it take for individual staff and volunteers to build meaningful relationships? And what organisational changes need to happen to enable those staff and volunteers to work in that way?

Funded by the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation and delivered by the National Leaving Care Benchmarking Forum, this peer learning programme is supporting voluntary organisations and local authorities working with young people with care experience to generate and amplify learning about what it takes to work relationally and design a relationship-centred system.


Participating Organisations

The participants in the peer learning programme come from 12 Local Authorities across England and 3 voluntary & community sector organisations.

Local authorities:

  • Bradford Council
  • Coventry City Council
  • Devon County Council
  • Hammersmith & Fulham (London Borough)
  • Lancashire County Council (partnership project)
  • Leeds City Council
  • Oxfordshire County Council
  • Redbridge (London Borough)
  • Stockport Council
  • Telford & Wrekin Council
  • Wandsworth (London Borough)
  • Worcestershire County Council


Voluntary organisations:

  • Blue Cabin
  • Leicestershire Cares
  • National House Project (partnership project)


Project themes

Each organisation has identified a project they’ll be working on during the peer learning programme. The themes that participants will be working on include:

  • Young Parents – Supporting young people with care experience who are parents.
  • Family relationships – Supporting young people with care experience to build relationships with family members.
  • Migrant & Refugee Young People – Building support networks for young people with care experience who are UASC/ undocumented.
  • Working with the Criminal Justice system – working to build relationships with young people with care experience who are prison, and with the police, in order to reduce criminalisation.
  • Young people & accommodation – building relationships with young people in semi-independent and supported accommodation.
  • Relationships with other parts of the system – working with Adult Services, or neighbouring local authorities, to enable young people with care experience to access support services.
  • Testing new models of support for young people – using Learning Circles and Peer Education to offer support to care experienced young people.


Programme Format

The relational practice peer learning programme consists of six half-day online sessions facilitated jointly by Janet Grauberg (Esmée Fairbairn Leaving Care Learning Programme), Darren Bishton (National Leaving Care Benchmarking Forum) and Gabriel Eichsteller (ThemPra Social Pedagogy CIC). Held between February 2023 and January 2024, the session format comprises a case study example of an organisation that has made progress in an aspect of relational practice, time for questions and discussion, and action planning for the weeks ahead. As the programme unfolds, we’ll be sharing below any resources from each session.

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