Young People's Zone
Can we correct the variation of support that care leavers get?
I am elated, with every pledge that local authorities agree to, or to new guidelines dedicated to improve the type of service that care leavers can receive. And although I see some changes, it feels like we are moving at a snails pace. I decided to do some digging of my own on what care leavers are entitled to, and I found the Children (Leaving Care) Act 2000 to be extremely ambiguous. Furthermore, I found that there wasn’t anything clearly written to help young people understand what they are entitled to. And there lies the problem
Linda Briheim-Crookall, senior policy manager for National Care Advisory Service (NCAS), states that the “concern is that there is no systematic monitoring of the extent to which local authorities are compliant with the specific provisions.” The Children Leaving Care Act is so general that local authorities are left to interpret it as they choose. This means that care leavers don’t receive the same level of support. Briheim-Crookall added that NCAS fears that very few local authorities are aware of their duty to provide care leavers up to the age of 25 with a personal adviser if they want to return to education.
My sister and I were looked after by two different boroughs. As we became care leavers we found that the service that we received was so different from each other, for example she didn’t have a P.A for almost a year yet I had one almost immediately. Furthermore, the financial package that she receives as a care leaver in education is much different to the one that I have. Having spoken to other young people I saw how wide and deep the support varies. This is supported by the After Care Report by the Children Rights Director for England; the report found that 43% of care leavers received little to no support from their local authority, and 64% of care leavers knew little of their rights when leaving care. Its clear what young people need is not another declaration of intention but something that empowers them and highlights where they stand.
The Children Leaving Care Act states that the local authority has a duty of care to all in education. However, a small group of care leavers holding discretionary leave to remain (DLR) are unable to get funding such as student loans and grants. These young people are unable to complete their education and it begs the question; when does the duty of care expire? In my opinion, care leavers regardless of their background should not pay for university fees. For example, if all care leavers were to go to university they would account to less than a fraction of the number of young people going to university. Additionally, if the government claims to be our corporate parent, then how can you charge your child to study?
Care leavers ought to have the reassurance that they are not alone during crucial time in their adult lives. I am hoping the Care Leavers’ Charter being launched on the 24th October will prevent care leavers having to fight to get their legal entitlement, and ensure that they are supported up until they have finished their education. I wish the Charter becomes a tool that will empower young people.