A Skegness couple who have been helping young people for 20 years are encouraging others to do the same.
Sandy and Bob Cookland became supported lodging providers for Barnardo’s after bringing up their own family and running a guest house in the town.
Originally from Bradford Sandy, 69, and Bob, 79, have four children each from their previous relationships - they have been together as a couple for 37 years.
Sandy has 12 grandchildren and 14 great grandchildren. Bob has 11 grandchildren and 14 great grandchildren.
“When my own children grew up and left home we had always seen lots of young people coming through our guest house. We saw many young people
coming and going and it was just natural to me to help them.
“It’s always been a two-way thing. I knew the problems the young people were facing but looking after them helped me as much as it helped them in
lots of ways. It helped me to understand things about myself and to understand the young people and be on their side and try and get the best
for them and support them.
"Sometimes you need to have some battles to get what is best for the young people and I have always been prepared to
challenge both them and the authorities to get what they needed.”
Sandy and Bob have had well over 200 young people under their roof over 20 years, including in their guest house and being an official supported
lodgings provider for Barnardo’s.
“If I’m asked how does it feel to have affected so many young people’s lives the answer is it feels brilliant! Just to know you might have helped someone
to have a good memory - as so many of the young people who have been in care have bad memories from their childhoods. We see young people who
lived with us everywhere we go.”
“It definitely gives you something to get up for! It is great to be able to give someone else so much. But you get something yourself. And it doesn’t end
when the placement ends. One girl who is now 35 with her own family says to me “I hear your words coming out my mouth!”
Bob and Sandy used to have two separate Christmas dinners – one for the 40 or so of their own children and family and then one for those young
people who had lived with them and moved on
. “I was grandma to a lot of them” says Sandy. “I’m still in touch with many of the young people who lived here – I have been birthing partner to six of the girls who have gone onto to have their own kids. It’s been a real pleasure to do that! Very emotional of course.”
“It’s just natural to help the young people find their way” says Bob. “It’s give and take. We put our way of living with them and they find their way.”
Bob stresses how important it is not to be judgmental. “The way I look at it is I never go into histories of why they have been in care, I just take it as
normal and treat them as they come.”
Sandy agrees: “Some of the stories from the young people can be quite dramatic at times and helping them to understand what has happened to
them can be difficult – you need to be impartial when they have had difficult background, both to the young person and to the parent. You can’t be
The overriding purpose of being a Barnardo’s supported lodgings provider is to prepare young people who have been in care to live independently. That
involves learning life skills and budgeting.
“Some will engage with it and some want to learn, but you need to be confident to try and learn those everyday skills and some young people don’t
have that confidence so we try to support them in that” says Sandy.
Sandy says that one of the most important things for the young people is to learn they can fall out but they we can come back from that. “It’s really
important to know that it’s okay to disagree about something. You can and fall out, but Bob and I still care and we can carry on - just like we are with
our own kids.”
Savannah (21) lived with Sandy and Bob for two years. She made Sandy and Bob a scrapbook of their time together which said ‘thank you for loving me
as your own’.
“Sandy and Bob treated me as a person and not a ‘case’” she says. “The whole family made me feel a part of them. I made the scrapbook to show
them how much I appreciate them and how much we’ve achieved together – it shows how much progress we’ve made.”
Of living in supported lodgings Savannah says: “I think it’s a really good opportunity for young people to restart and rebuild their lives. It’s not like
being in foster care – it’s like being a family.”
Sandy sums up her experiences of being a supported lodging provider like this: “It can be rewarding, it can be stressful, it can be exhausting and it can
be fun – you can learn a lot and you can teach a lot.”
ABOUT BARNARDO'S LINCOLNSHIRE SUPPORTED LODGINGS
The Barnardo’s Lincolnshire Supported Lodgings scheme is a dedicated team that supports 16-21-year-olds (25 if in full time education) who are leaving the care system.
It aims to find a caring and supportive home that will ease their journey through to adulthood. It is not just about finding young people a roof over their head. It’s about providing a home environment where young care leavers can flourish - with the guidance and supportive extra care that goes with it.
Barnardo’s want to recruit supported lodging providers – ordinary people who open up their homes and their lives to provide extraordinary support and mentoring that many of us may take for granted. Providers are different ages and from all backgrounds - some are single, others married, some with children, others not. But all have one thing in common – they have a spare bedroom to offer a young person leaving care and compassion to help turn around a teenager’s life and support them to develop the skills they will need to live in a less supported environment.
Once providers are approved by an independent panel they are then matched to a suitable young person. Meetings and weekend overnight stays are arranged before a young person moves in. A small weekly fee is paid and training and on-going support are given. If you would like more information on becoming a Supported Lodgings Provider in Lincolnshire, please email SupportedLodgingsLincolnshire@barnardos.org.uk or phone 01522 575955