A guest blog from our associate partners, The Children’s Society.
Following the Queen’s Speech, the coming year is looking set to be a hugely significant year for children in care. The Children’s Society explains why – with your support – they are hopeful it will lead to tangible transformation for every young person in care.
Within two years of leaving the care system, a third of young care leavers become homeless – a situation we would never want any child to grow up into. The latest Queen’s Speech outlined the Government’s plan for the coming year, which included a Bill to introduce significant change for this group of vulnerable young people.
Encouragingly and for the first time, the Government has agreed to write into law the parenting principles that local government are required to uphold as a ‘corporate parent’ for children in care. This is an important step forward and is welcomed. Local government already have responsibility for children in care, but we know that children in care and care leavers face substantial challenges not only when they are in the care system but also in their transition to adulthood.
So how will the legislation make this better? The new law will require local authorities to develop a ‘local offer’ for care leavers, outlining their entitlement to services and, crucially, enable them to have access to a dedicated member of staff – a personal adviser – until the age of 25. This improvement will help care leavers know their rights and access the services they are entitled to. With young adults now often living with their parents longer, the acknowledgement that your care needs to do not stop when you turn 18 will be recognised in law.
Yet whilst the Bill is a step forward in clarifying the rights and entitlements of care leavers and children in the care system, this needs to translate into tangible changes in the services these young people receive. We would like the Government to go further in protections for these children and young adults. The Bill doesn’t go far enough to protect the 37% of young people in care who are placed away from their local area, or those children who are not in the care system but may similarly need extra support to ensure they can thrive in adulthood.
The Children’s Society would also like the Bill to look at other steps they can take to ensure that care leavers don’t fall into debt, by requiring local authorities to provide children in care with money management skills. We know over half of children leaving care find it difficult managing money and fall into debt. Therefore, we want to ensure local authorities protect care leavers from falling into debt by taking proactive steps, alongside exempting them from council tax payments until they turn 25.
The bill is a hugely significant step for a group of young people for whom we are all responsible – we need to ensure we use this opportunity to implement measures that will further protect these children.
You can come and join in the conversation about children in care with The Children’s Society’s Lucy Capron, Krish Kandiah, Lemn Sissay and young care leavers at this year’s festival. We will be in The Pagoda from 3:30pm to 4:45pm on Sunday 28th August.
Pictured, Lemn Sissay, with us at Greenbelt for two days this year! ©Aida Muluneh