Charity calls for reimagining of what ‘leaving care’ should look like
A charity representing children in care and care leavers is calling for changes to how young people ‘leave care’, saying they are expected to become fully independent overnight – at a much younger age than their peers and without the support that every young person needs to thrive.
Become, a national charity for children in care and young care leavers, coined the phrase ‘Care Cliff’ to describe how placements and support can abruptly stop at a crucial time in a young person’s life when they need stability the most.
The charity worked with 11 young care leavers to produce the Sky’s the Limit project. Young people worked as a design team to boldly reimagine 'leaving care' and develop a new approach to support them to have happy, positive starts to adulthood, and implore government to end the care cliff.
“I’d just moved into college accommodation to live independently – on my actual 18th birthday. My social worker came to see me to explain how to fill out a benefits form under a lamp post in the rain before she left. I felt like ‘OK, this is going to be difficult’,” one young person said.
“It takes so long for us to work everything out that we’re hitting 30 by the time we’re getting it. And that’s a real shame. It’s trial and error and we fail a lot before getting it right,” another young person said of the process.
Starting from a complete blank canvas, young people were asked: What would leaving care look like though if care-experienced young people designed it? Sharing their knowledge, memories, hopes and dreams, young people created a vision where care didn’t abruptly end but continued to help them reach their potential and lead happy, successful lives.
The project called for more individualized support, rather than putting ‘care leavers’ into a single box; as well as an end to the ‘postcode lottery’ of care and one system that delivers fair and evidence-led support for all. It called for more accountability to prevent ‘bad practice’, as well as equity for care leavers, recognising that some groups, such as those with a disability or who are from a minority community, face additional challenges to that of the care experience.
The team produced a ‘design brief’ which was sent to the Independent Review of Children’s Social Care team to influence their thinking ahead of publication. It has also been shared with the Department of Education, parliamentarians, and local authorities, to influence the upcoming reforms to the care system.
Representatives from the charity will also be speaking about the project at The Social Work Show conference in Manchester next week, explaining how change can be executed by amplifying the voices of children in care.
George Downing, a member of the Sky’s the Limit design group, said the report is important because it demonstrates the views and ideas of people with real-life experience of leaving care.
“We are the experts and know what needs to be changed. It is us the government should be listening to, and our thoughts and words are in this document. Our corporate parent has a responsibility to uplift care leavers and bring the positive change that is needed.”
Katharine Sacks-Jones, CEO of Become, said that the report contains “robust ideas” and “strong recommendations” of what loving support, care, and guidance looks like.
“The experiences of young people leaving care are, at times, at risk of being overlooked – but listening to their voices and recognising and addressing the challenges they face is crucial to ensuring a positive start to adulthood. This is increasingly important as the number of young people in and leaving care continues to rise.”
To read the Sky’s the Limit full report and two-page summary, visit www.BecomeCharity.org.uk/STL
You can also register for a free ticket to The Social Work Show and attend the session ‘Reimagining Leaving Care’ by Become: https://www.compassjobsfair.com/Events/The-Social-Work-Show/Book-Tickets
£38,223 to £40,221
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