Support for care leavers resource pack
Striking out into the world on your own for the first time is exciting and daunting for all of us. The opportunity to carve your own path and the newfound independence is a huge draw. On the other hand, learning to budget to keep on top of the bills, remembering to put a wash on in time so that you have clean clothes for work on Monday morning, and managing to keep the fridge stocked, let alone keeping yourself healthy – it’s a huge learning curve for any young person. It’s even more difficult for those without supportive families to fall back on, or for those who can’t stay at home for other reasons. Those who have grown up, or spent time, in care don’t always have the luxury of a family home to return to if something goes wrong, or a parent to phone when they aren’t sure how to fix a problem.
That’s where we come in.
As corporate parents to care leavers, it’s our job to make sure that these young people are ready for what’s next, know they’re supported as they take those first steps into independence, and to help them access the same opportunities as their peers have – without worrying that if they make a mistake, they won’t get another chance.
We need to give them the practical, social and emotional support that any good parent gives their child, from help to find the right accommodation, to guiding them through job applications and interviews, to making sure they know where to turn if they’re having trouble.
We also need to make sure we’re listening. If we can really hear what care leavers are telling us about their needs, dreams and ambitions, we can make sure we’re giving the right support to help them get there.
The Children and Social Work Act 2017 extended support for care leavers by clarifying in law our role as corporate parents, by giving care leavers access to their personal advisers until the age of 25, and legislating for the publication of local offers to make sure every care leaver knows what help and support they can get.
In reality, many councils have been doing much of this work for some time, and we’ve included some excellent case studies in this pack to highlight the good work already taking place. Much of the good practice doesn’t take a lot of money to implement – it’s more about making sure we have the right culture, and understanding what’s best for the care leavers in our areas so that we can shape our services, and work with our partners, appropriately.
Our responsibilities don’t end when a child leaves care, and getting them right is the best way of making sure we set young people on the right path to a settled, successful and happy adulthood.