For most young adults, taking their first steps towards independence is both liberating and exciting. However, young people in care have already faced adversity and then face extra barriers to independent living when they leave the care system. Making sure they have the right support at this critical time in their life is vital.
Securing stable housing is key, whether that involves allowing young people to remain with foster families up to age 21 through the 'Staying Put' duty on councils, helping them move into supported housing, or in tenancies of their own.
That’s why the Government is publishing best practice guidance for councils during Care Leavers’ Week, designed to help them develop joint protocols that will ensure suitable accommodation and support for care leavers. Every young person deserves a settled and safe home, and for those leaving care this might be something that has been missing in their lives.
We all have a responsibility to be corporate parents for this group of young people. Councils must ensure that both housing departments and children’s services work together with local partners to provide effective support and reduce the risk of these vulnerable young people becoming homeless.
Our joint guidance advises on how councils should plan for this transition in care leavers’ lives, as well as providing frameworks and best practice examples to help local authorities to meet the accommodation needs of care leavers.
While Care Leavers’ Week focuses attention on this vulnerable group, our job is to listen and respond all year round. Over the past few months that’s been a major focus and we have heard directly from individuals leaving care about their concerns and challenges, both as a result of the pandemic but also beyond that. Their voices deserve to be heard, and we’re encouraging councils to reflect these when designing their own protocols.
Many councils already do excellent work in this area, and we thank everyone involved in caring for these vulnerable young people but we know we can do more to support them.
All care leavers deserve to start their independent lives on strong foundations so they can flourish in a stable home of their own. We will continue to work together as government departments to support and improve outcomes for care leavers.
Securing suitable accommodation is one of the key building blocks for a successful transition out of care. But care leavers also need support in other areas such as engaging in education, employment or training, accessing the right health support and managing on low incomes.
That is why we have established the Care Leaver Covenant Board, bringing together Ministers from across Government to think collectively about what more we can do to improve care leavers outcomes. The Board met for the first time in July and provided an opportunity for us to hear directly from care leavers about the barriers they face adjusting to independent life as adults, and how Government can address these.
We have also launched the next round of the Civil Service care leaver internship scheme, which offers paid internship opportunities to those who have left care. We invited every department in Whitehall to provide as many paid job opportunities as possible for care leavers, resulting in over 500 opportunities in 20 Government departments and agencies, in locations right across the UK – more than double the number of opportunities available last year. This increased to 550 this year. We have received over 700 applications for these posts and interviews begin next week.
This new guidance will provide the framework for councils to develop effective support so young people who leave care have brighter futures.
Kelly Tolhurst is minister for rough sleeping and housing and Vicky Ford is minister for children and families