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Council commits to treating care experience as a protected characteristic

Waltham Forest Council is the latest local authority to pre-emptively implement a recommendation from the Care Review to include care experience as a protected characteristic.

11/05/23

Council commits to treating care experience as a protected characteristic

Councillors at Waltham Forest Council have passed a motion committing to treating care experience as if it were a protected characteristic.

The motion, which passed unanimously after receiving cross-party support, will mean that everyone who has grown up in care should be given protection under the Equalities Act to tackle the barriers and stigma which can often stay with them for a lifetime.

As an employer, the motion will mean anyone who has experience of the care system will be given the right to an interview when applying for council jobs they are qualified for. Their needs will also be given full consideration when accessing council services, such as housing.

And the council will take into account the particular difficulties faced by those who have been through the care system, when making new policies.

The change would mean putting care experience on a par with other characteristics that may mean someone faces disadvantages and discrimination such as age, disability, race, religion and sexual orientation among others.

Councillor Alistair Strathern, the borough’s Cabinet Member for Children and Young People, called on central government, as well as local police and NHS, to adopt the policy.

“It is a national shame that many of the most vulnerable who we take into care as a society face such significant challenges later in life.

“Seven in ten care leavers die early; nearly half of all under 21-year-olds in contact with the criminal justice system have been in care; and a quarter of people who are homeless in England have care experience.

“No parent would be happy with this, and as corporate parents we shouldn’t be either.

“Righting the wrongs experienced by those let down by the care system is one of the equalities issues of our time, and today we are playing our part in tackling it.

“As a local authority, this commits us to acknowledging and addressing the challenges faced by those with care experience across everything we do, from breaking down barriers to work to ensuring fair access to housing.”

Terry Galloway, Co-Founder of the website Care Leaver Offer, which compares the support for care leavers among local authorities, said he was overjoyed with the decision.

“Around the country, the lives of care leavers are slowly improving as more and more local authorities are making this vital change,” Galloway said.

“I am really proud that Waltham Forest and other councils across London are taking this step, hopefully more will follow.

“As a care leaver myself, I’ve seen first-hand how so many lives struggle to recover from this early set back in life.

“They are setting their stall out and leading by example and are calling on partners out there to do the same.”

Dozens of councils around the country have now committed to adopting the policy.

Mark Riddell, National Implementation Adviser for Care Leavers at the Department for Education, attended the meeting and praised the councils across the country implementing the change.

“Absolute privilege to talk after the care experienced young adults,” Riddell wrote on Twitter, adding: “This is a massive win for care experienced young people. Well done Waltham Forest for caring.”

View the policy’s proposals in full: https://newsroom.walthamforest.gov.uk/press-releases/2586f5bf-f880-49c6-8389-889c1659e1d6/improving-life-chances-for-care-leavers

Picture: Mark Riddell, National Implementation Adviser for Care Leavers, Department for Education

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