We're delighted to be speaking to Lowis Charfe, Senior Lecturer at the UCLan School of Social Work, Care and Community. Lowis is part of Juno's Independent Evaluation Project, working alongside the Young Leaders group.
Tell us about who you are and what you do
I’m Lowis Charfe, a Senior Lecturer at the University of Central Lancashire. I’m also a member of the Centre for Children and Young People’s Participation which was developed by Prof. Patrick Thomas and Prof. Cath Larkins, here at UCLan. The Centre looks at children and young people’s participation in things that matter to them and at getting children and young people involved in research as well.
I’ve been a senior lecturer at UCLan for the last 10 years, I teach in the School of Social Work, mainly around Social Pedagogy which is the main interest area for me.
Outside of work, I love playing netball and swimming – I try to swim a couple of miles a week, often outdoors. Every Sunday, I meet a couple of friends and we go wild swimming all year round. The best place so far has been an old flooded mine we visited in Lancaster – people learn to scuba dive there, and you can have a beautiful outside swim, the water was lovely, so it’s a real highlight for me. And, of course, the Lake District!
What is your relationship to Juno?
I am a part of the Independent Evaluation Project, working with the Young Leaders group to look at evaluating how well Juno meets the aims they have set out in their first year. I’ve been working with the Young Leaders to develop a Theory of Change – the things they believe are important that Juno should be doing, and now we’re looking at how we’re going to collect the data.
I’m involved in the Centre for Children and Young People’s Participation, where we have done similar co-produced projects, so when Sophie approached me enquiring about potential evaluation partners, I was interested right away. My background is in social work, and I love working alongside young people. I was fascinated by Juno, the values the company has and the care the team wants to provide to the young people. They are using Social Pedagogy as one of the theories of care, and I’m really interested in seeing how that works.
How would you describe what Juno is looking to achieve?
I have previously worked in social care for eight years, working with young people that were leaving care and often moving into their own homes. So, I was very aware of the standards of care that young people have in residential care, and that there’s a real issue here in England. The workforce is struggling, organisations are struggling to find good staff, and some of the standards of care are poor. Juno is trying to address these concerns by providing great care and a great place to work. I think what Juno is trying to do is so important, which is why I was really keen to get involved in the evaluation and support their journey where possible.
I think it’s so important that young people who can’t live at home with their family have a home where they can feel very settled and safe, where they feel valued and can flourish and grow.
What excites you the most about working with Juno?
It’s the passion and enthusiasm of the team – everyone from the board to the care team has what we call in Social Pedagogy haltung – the ethical value base, which is part of who you are, the way you live your life. To me, Juno’s haltung was visible right away in everyone involved. The Young Leaders told me the same thing – the passion they see in everyone in the management team, the care team, and the board – it’s so motivating to stay involved. I think that if you can get that haltung, that foundation right, it creates a really positive base for the young people who will be moving in, I’m sure they will feel that the atmosphere is different than what they might have experienced in other homes.
To me, it’s also so exciting to see the voices of care-experienced young people coming through. Juno spent a lot of time asking young people about what matters to them, really listened to it, and developed Juno based on that feedback, making sure it doesn’t get watered down or lost in the project. I think that’s so important and just brilliant.
What about the challenges? What’s going to be hard for Juno, and how should we be addressing that?
I think Juno is well-equipped to deal with challenges, that attitude of growth and development means any challenge can be overcome.
The project will grow, develop and change based on everything the team learns, but I think the biggest learning moment will be the young people moving in. Everything up to now has been built towards this moment, I know there’s been so much work done to prepare for it. It will be interesting to see how those relationships with the young people who make Juno their home and the care team grow, and how they all respond to any challenges that come up.
I’m sure there will be ups and downs because this is life, but I think Juno is in a great place to deal with any challenges, learn and further develop the project.
What are your hopes for residential care in the future?
I hope that there’s a complete transformation – I was pleased to see that the government’s response to the Independent Review of Children’s Social Care talked about relationships, love, and stability because those are the things that children and young people need. My hope is that Juno becomes a driving force that helps people see it’s possible to provide excellent care and challenge some of the for-profit organisations that are providing poor standards of care. I hope to see networks of organisations learning from each other and supporting one another because providing care is not an easy task, it’s hard work – having that support network and feeding into the national conversation is really important.