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Debbie Moreton

Debbie Moreton on taking steps to support young people

By Debbie Moreton

CEO - Step by Step Partnership Ltd.

From her time as a foster carer for children in her own home to the 15 years spent working for a charity that empowers young people, Debbie Moreton has been an advocate for young people every step of the way in both her personal and professional journey.

Her fortitude in never giving up on young people, and assurance that there is a way to help everyone, has steered Debbie to lead Step by Step, the charity for which she is now CEO, in making a positive difference to thousands of young people in Hampshire, Surrey, West Sussex, Berkshire, and Dorset.

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Can you tell us about Step by Step and what the charity does?

Predominantly, we home looked-after children through local authority contracts, within our Ofsted regulated Foyer models and Supported Lodgings service, we also offer wellbeing services like counselling, housing options, family mediation, benefits advice and independent living skills ready for when a young person moves on. Our counselling service runs from age 11 and the accommodation is for ages 16 to 25.

I have also just Founded Step by Step Fostering this is an independent fostering Agency. - Our Independent Fostering Agency aims to help generate income to support our parent company Step by Step Partnership to sustainably fund and provide much needed services that have had recent funding cuts by the local authorities.

What are some of the challenges being faced by the young people that Step by Step supports?

One of the challenges faced by young people who are 18 years old – is that they have nowhere to move on to. We try to remedy that by providing placements out of our reserves and by working with corporates to fund move-on accommodation options.

Additionally, mental health issues pose a significant challenge for our young beneficiaries. The escalating costs of living compounds these difficulties affecting not only them but many others as well. Our counselling service plays a curtail role in supporting our young people. It remains A vital and impactful resource for those navigating mental health challenges within our community.

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What is an important issue right now that is not being talked about as much as it should be?

One critical issue that often goes unnoticed is the challenge faced by young people when transitioning from the care system into independent living at the age of 18, this is commonly referred to as “18+ move on”.

Unfortunately, this topic is frequently overlooked, contributing to the difficulties young people encounter in securing move on housing options be it renting or purchasing.

Compounding this challenge is the fact that local authority’s statutory responsibility typically ends at the age of 18. Consequently, some young people find it hard to celebrate their 18th birthdays as they may experience apprehension rather than the wish to celebrate. I am actively working to bring attention to this issue advocating for greater awareness and understanding.

I have spoken on radio, The House of Lords and participated in national conferences, my aim is to shed light on the struggles faced by young people during this transitional and gather support for meaningful solutions.

How can businesses get involved and support the work that you’re doing?

Any inquiries regarding corporate engagement and support for our initiatives are welcomed. Companies interested in contributing to our mission have various avenues for involvement.

For instance, establishing apprenticeship opportunities is a meaningful way to support our cause. Additionally, corporate entities could actively engage with our charity through direct participation in our initiatives. Financial support for specific projects is another avenue. Every form of funding significantly enhances our capacity to fulfil the essential needs of young people under our care.

"As you know I was a foster carer for many years, my foster children are the reason why I will never give up on young people, the reason why I will always advocate for young people and the reason why I am so passionate about step by step"

Have you had any proudest moments in your 15 years with Step by Step?

Certainly, one of my most significant achievements in my 15 years with step by step charity has been the establishment of the independent fostering agency. The process involved navigating approvals from both the board and Ofsted, along with securing the initial investment required for its inception-a four year endeavour. Witnessing the conscious growth of our services over the years, despite the challenges like COVID rising cost of living and government cuts to local authorities funding has constantly filled me with pride. We must remain resilient, continue to expand with roots and steadfastly support young people in need.

What is your strategic direction for the future?

Our strategic focus for the future involves addressing the accommodation needs of those age 18+ working with investors to acquire affordable accommodation. We aim to expand our own offerings in various forms- further placements and by providing opportunities for 18+ young people to stay on in their placement despite funding complications.

We also plan to enhance our “opportunities fund” utilising reserves to assist young people in obtaining essential items for their transition into independence such as bedding, IT and rent deposits. The growth of our independent fostering agency is a priority as it will generate funds to contribute to the overall sustainability of the charity.

We also aim to maintain and grow our Ofsted approved 16+ Accommodation Services within Foyers and our Supported Lodging services across six counties.

What are your hopes and aspirations for the future of the charity and for the young people you support?

When envisioning the future of Step by Step and the aspirations we hold for the young people under our support a primary hope is for local authorities to adopt a more pragmatic approach to their commissioning processes. We aspire for better utilisation of the funds at their disposal acknowledging the unmet needs within our communities.

Our overarching hope is that our not-for-profit fostering agency will serve as a sustainable source of income this strategic vision aims to enable our organisation to extend support to individuals who may not align precisely with the existing criteria but nevertheless require assistance. By fostering financial sustainability through these endeavours, we aspire to bridge the gap and extend our reach to a broader spectrum of individuals in need.

In such an emotional working environment, how do you get headspace for yourself?

I enjoy Zumba and if I really need some headspace I tend to go to the beach. I live close to Calshot and I will just go down to sit on the beach. Quite often, I just want to be alone to think things through – whether it’s a safeguarding matter, outcomes of a board meeting, or thinking through the strategic plan – I find it most calming down at the beach.

"I'm proud to be the CEO of step by step and a Director of step by step fostering because every day I witnessed the tangible impact we make on the lives of the young people that we support. My organisation doesn't just address immediate needs but actively seeks to innovate solutions to complex challenges such as the 18+ accommodation gap. The commitment to strategic growth, resilience in overcoming obstacles and the genuine individualised support we provide creates a work environment that is not only fulfilling but also deeply meaningful."

Debbie Moreton - CEO, Step by Step Partnership Ltd.