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Vital new support for young people leaving the care system

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Monday 28th October marked the beginning of National Care Leavers Week. The Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has announced new cross government support to be made available for young people leaving care. This will include a £19 million of investment for programmes that will benefit care leavers.

The support includes:

  • £10 million to create new stable homes for care leavers as they approach adulthood.
  • £6 million to support care leavers to live independently.
  • £3 million to help care leavers access further education.
  • There will also be a 1,000 internships to help care leavers secure long-term jobs. The internships will be within the Civil Service, NHS, Ministry of Defence - civilian roles, Police and Fire Service.

Currently, young care leavers need better access to housing, healthcare and employment opportunities. These areas are at the core of a new multi-million pound settlement to improve the life chances for young people coming out of the care system.  The Education Secretary is committed to providing quality jobs for care leavers.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said:

‘Young people leaving care face enormous barriers in their lives as they move towards independence, from not having a trusted person in their life to rely on, to not having a safe home to return to at the end of the day’.

‘Housing, healthcare and education are three of the biggest obstacles they have to overcome. We all have a responsibility to do better for them – so I’m bringing together colleagues from across government to join me in transforming the support we offer care leavers in all of these key areas to make the biggest difference in their lives’.

‘This starts immediately, because we must raise the bar for these young people, to give them greater stability and a strong sense of purpose in adulthood’.

This recent offer for care leavers builds on existing work by the Department for Education to tackle the root causes for children being taken into care. These include projects designed to strengthen families and to support stable home lives for vulnerable children so that they can stay with their birth families if it is safe and in the child’s best interest.

The scheme is chaired by Mr Williamson and Minister for the Cabinet Office, Oliver Dowden.  The new Care Leavers Covenant Board will comprise of Secretaries of State from across relevant government departments. They will meet three times a year to address the key barriers facing young care leavers as they adjust to independent life as adults, such as finding a suitable safe place to live, supporting them to remain in education, employment or training, and helping them access appropriate healthcare. It will also look at how to support local councils to employ adolescent mental health workers within leaving care teams.

In addition to the new internships and ministerial group, the full package of new announcements includes:

  • Staying Put – this programme is designed to create stable foster placements so that care leavers remain in their placement until they reach 21 in order to make a smooth transition into independent living.  This scheme has been ear marked to receive a funding boost of £10 million to expand its work further.
  • Stay Close – this scheme will be rolled out 2012/2022 and is envisaged to support young care leavers who are leaving residential care. The plan is for care leavers to continue to have ongoing support from their previous carers which will assist them to live independently. The scheme will receive £6 million.
  • Pupil Premium Plus – will receive a further £3 million to assist all 16-18 year old care leavers to support their transition into further education.

This financial input will ensure that care leavers have better long term outcomes and opportunities. It will address the number of those aged 19 to 21 who are deemed ‘not in education, employment or training’ (NEET).

Almost 40% of care leavers are NEET compared to 13% for this age group overall. The new internships, each being a one-year paid offer, are designed to lead to full-time job offers, and follows an expansion of the civil service internship scheme for care leavers from 2021, which is currently offering 220 internships across 25 departments in the next year.

The ministerial group will agree key goals across relevant policy areas which will be scrutinised by members, which will include the Secretaries of State from the Ministery of Housing, Communities and Local Government, the Department of Health and Social Care and Home Office.

Minister for the Cabinet Office, Oliver Dowden, said:

‘My role in the Cabinet Office is to pull together all the different parts of government, so that they work together on the issues that really matter. Through better coordination we can massively improve the support that’s available to young people leaving the care system and make sure they can become independent adults with a bright future ahead of them’.

Ian Dickson, Chair of the Conference for Care Experienced People which met with Mr Williamson on Monday to mark National Care Leavers Week, said:

‘The Education Secretary listened very attentively and reflected that our commitment to ‘care experienced’ people should be a lifelong one – similar to the commitment we make towards members of the Armed Forces. We thought he really got it: care experience is a continuous lifetime experience bringing different needs at different stages that may not accord with the statutory definition of care and leaving care. Care does not end at 18, 21 or 25’.

At Emery Johnson Astills Solicitors, we have a dedicated family and care team. If you have any further questions and require legal advice, please contact the office on 0116 255 4855 (Leicester) or 01509 610 312 (Loughborough).