The government has announced new cross-government support available to young care leavers backed with £19 million of investment into programmes that directly benefit those leaving care.
The investment is to support care leavers accessing better housing, healthcare and employment opportunities. The new funding includes £10 million to create stable homes for care leavers as they become adults; £6 million to support young people leaving care to live independently and £3 million to help care leavers go into further education.
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," he added.
The Education Secretary has also committed to delivering 1,000 internships for care leavers over the next two years to help secure long term, quality jobs for care leavers. This will include expanding the existing Civil Service Internship Scheme which has offered permanent jobs to 220 care leavers across Whitehall and working with other public sector bodies including the NHS, Ministry of Defence civilian roles, police and the fire service to support care leavers into new employment opportunities.
The new package of measures complements existing work by the Department for Education to tackle the root causes for children being taken into care, through projects designed to keep families together where it is safe to do so. It adds to extra funding announced last week to help adoptive families build strong relationships and overcome past trauma, and practical support announced earlier this month for foster families in the form of short breaks, mentoring and social activities.
A new Care Leaver Covenant Board will also be established, chaired by Mr Williamson and Minister for the Cabinet Office, Oliver Dowden, which will comprise of Secretaries of State from across relevant government departments and will meet three times a year to address the key barriers facing young care leavers as they transition to adult life.
The funding breaks down as follows:
- £10 million to expand Staying Put, a programme where care leavers stay with foster families until they reach age 21.
- £6 million in 2021/22 to roll out Staying Close across the country, helping young people leaving residential care to continue to get on-going support from their previous carers they know and trust, which will help them to successfully live independently.
- £3 million to extend the Pupil Premium Plus to all 16-18 year old care leavers, supporting their transition into further education.
The measures aim to help improve the outcomes of care leavers, addressing the number of those aged 19 to 21 who are labelled ‘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.
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."
Jenny Coles, ADCS Vice President, said: “Young people leaving care have to start living independently and navigating adulthood much earlier than their peers and may not have the family or support network to help them. Councils are doing lots of things to support care leavers from council tax exemptions to creating apprenticeships to support them into employment. The investment and programmes announced today will help to make a difference in the lives of our care leavers, the creation of a Care Leaver Covenant Board will helpfully bring a national cross government focus to the issues affecting care leavers. Initiatives such as Staying Put and Staying Close are welcome and help to prepare young people for independence, however, there is currently a shortage of foster carers and more children coming into care, so our need for carers continues to grow. A national foster carer recruitment strategy would undoubtably help with this. “