‘The decade of the care leaver’: Good practice and future challenges outlined

The second report from the National Implementation Adviser for Care Leavers says the sector must prioritise the needs of care leavers and achieve a step change in outcomes.

National Implementation Adviser for Care Leavers releases his second report outlining his experiences of local authorities and documenting the progress made since the ‘Keep on Caring’ strategy was published in 2016.

This report, based upon visits to more than 60 local authorities before the pandemic, sets out an ambition for all councils to set a target of between 70 and 80 per cent of care leavers to be involved in employment, education or training (EET).

Mark Riddell MBE, was appointed to help local authorities to implement the new duties introduced through the Children and Social Work Act, and to secure senior managers’ ‘buy-in’ to improve their local offer.

The report ‘celebrates what has worked well and shows the difference local authorities have been making to the lives of care leavers,’ however the author notes that ‘there is still a long way to go’.

The report says it has seen encouraging developments in councils’ corporate parenting strategies that are ‘less Corporate and more Parenting’.

There were, however, issues with key partner agencies often not being represented on Corporate Parenting Boards, such as adult services, mental health and probation.

Some individual examples of good practice were highlighted, such as Middlesbrough Council’s appointment of a Therapeutic Practitioner to work within the Leaving Care, preventing young people from getting ‘lost’ in the transition between CAMHS and adult mental health services.

Suffolk County Council were praised for creating ring-fenced apprenticeships for care leavers, while South Tyneside Council received acclaim for extending the Shared Lives model as a viable alternative for care experienced young people.

Coventry City Council received a mention for their ‘village’ approach and strong local offer, while Medway Council was praised for its joint-working between the Leaving Care Service, Probation, and Youth Offending Teams.

Warwickshire County Council was noted for creating a ‘dedicated space for care leavers’, while Gloucestershire County Council offered a travelcard for 100 free journeys and an e-card used to support setting up home purchases, emergency assistance, allowances and university bursaries.

Riddell also recommended that council tax exemptions for care leavers, already adopted by some local authorities, should be extended across the whole of the country up to the age of 25 to ensure they are not made homeless.

He also recommends that local authorities have ‘clear pathways’ for care leavers who need to transition through to adult social care or health services, with one referral pathway.

Other recommendations included seeking an improved offer from all universities, which includes 52-week free accommodation; as well as developing effective local protocols between LAs and Jobcentre Plus that seek to reduce the use of sanctions and ensure that care leavers receive extra support to engage in EET.

The report also outlined some of the challenges, with local authorities expressing concerns about high caseloads and the increasing complexity of the challenges faced by the young people they are supporting.

Riddell also noted that “the transition out of the current pandemic will be a difficult one for many local authorities”.

Concluding the report, Mark Riddell said: “I hope that many of the examples I have shown will encourage local authorities to incorporate these into their local offer.

“I am hugely ambitious and passionate for our ‘kids’ and optimistic that we can get every local authority in the country to have an offer to their ‘kids’ that is good enough for their own children.”

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