From today, young people leaving care will be able to see exactly what support is available to them as they take the first steps into adult life with the new care leaver strategy.
The strategy sets out in one place the steps the government is taking - from housing to health services, from the justice system to educational institutions - to support care leavers to live independently once they have left their placement.
Speaking at the National Care Leaver Week annual conference, Children and Families Minister Edward Timpson, who grew up with over 80 fostered brothers and sisters, said:
Although most children leave care having had positive experiences, it’s simply not acceptable that they end up with significantly worse exam results; are more likely to have poorer mental and physical health; or be unemployed or out of education altogether. That makes quality of support - and consistency of support - absolutely essential. They deserve nothing less. If care leavers get patchy services, they are more likely to slip through the cracks.
We want care leavers to enter adult life with the same opportunities and life chances as their friends. If someone needs a helping hand to get into work, to find a college place or to access the right employment services, it shouldn’t matter which part of government provides it.
For the first time ever, our care leaver strategy will ensure that all government action across every department - from justice to housing, education to finance - is working with one single, united purpose to improve the lives of these vulnerable young people.
Employment Minister Esther McVey said:
Young people leaving care don’t always have the same support structures in place as other young people, which can mean they miss out on help to move into the world of work.
Everyone deserves the chance to get on in life - that’s why this cross-government approach is so vital as it will enable us to ensure care-leavers get the help and support they need to find a job, build a career and fulfil their potential.
The new strategy includes a wide range of commitments from government to improve the help and support available to young people leaving care across all areas of life, including:
- in employment, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has introduced a care leaver ‘marker’ so that employment support for these young people is better tracked and improved; and the Department for Education (DfE) will continue to fund the Care to Work programme, providing care leavers with work experience, apprenticeships and other vital training opportunities
- in health, the Department of Health and DfE will improve guidance on promoting the health and well-being of looked-after children - making it clear how health organisations should work with local authorities to ensure care leavers receive the support they need
- in housing, DfE will work with the National Care Advisory Service (NCAS) to improve the training of children’s home staff so they are better able to support young people as they leave their placement; and Department for Communities and Local Government will consult on new social housing guidance that will prioritise the most vulnerable, including care leavers
- in financial support, DfE will continue to encourage all local authorities to pay at least £2,000 to young people leaving care which can be used to pay for essential things such as the deposit on a flat or train fares to a job interview; while DWP will ensure, as part of Universal Credit, that care leavers who need help managing their money are able to access personalised budgeting support
Martina Milburn, Chief Executive for The Prince’s Trust, said:
The transition from adolescence into adulthood is a daunting time for young people, bringing new responsibilities and pressures as they become fully independent. Without the support networks that their peers come to rely on, these vulnerable young people are more likely to face unemployment, leave school with few qualifications and struggle with mental health problems - and so this commitment from the government is hugely important to prevent this group from slipping through the net and into a life on benefits.
We wholeheartedly welcome this cross-government strategy that will see departments work collaboratively to ensure better, all round support for this vulnerable group. The Prince’s Trust, along with members of Access All Areas, will continue to work closely with these departments to ensure the strategy is implemented.
Around 10,000 young people aged between 16 to 18 leave care each year. The government believes that care leavers should expect the same level of care and support that their friends and classmates get from their parents. Yet some can find it difficult to navigate services or work out what support they are entitled to, with too many ending up unemployed, out of training or education or living in poor accommodation.
Figures published by the Department for Education this year shows that:
- over 1,100 care leavers aged 16 or over are now living in independent accommodation without any formalised support
- 34% of care leavers aged 19 or over are not in education, employment or training
- just 6% of care leavers aged 19 or over went on to higher education
Today’s announcement is the latest in a series of reforms the government has made to improve outcomes for young people leaving care as they make the transition to adulthood. We have been working with local authorities and voluntary organisations such as the National Care Advisory Service and the Care Leavers Foundation to overhaul the way in which they are supported.
In October 2012, the Department for Education launched the care leavers’ charter - a contract between local authorities and young people leaving care which sets out the support they can expect right up to the age of 25. Twelve months on, over 120 local authorities have now signed up to the charter, pledging to prioritise the needs of these vulnerable young people.
On financial support, Edward Timpson has written to all local authorities asking them to dramatically improve financial support for care leavers, resulting in a tripling in the number of councils now paying £2,000 or more through the setting up home allowance.
We have introduced Junior Independent Savings Accounts for all care leavers, with over 35,000 accounts now open with a £200 contribution from government, and provided over £280,000 to the Care Leavers Foundation and NCAS to help improve support and outcomes for young people leaving residential care.
We have also improved accountability by publishing an annual data pack, outlining statistics on care leavers’ education and employment status, and from this autumn Ofsted’s local authority children’s service inspection framework will place extra emphasis on the outcome of care leavers.
Notes to editor
Download the care leaver strategy.
- Statistics: Children looked after in England (including adoption and care leavers) year ending 31 March 2013
View the care leavers’ charter and the 2012 care leavers’ data pack.