Guest post by Nikki Ledingham of Every Child Leaving Care Matters | August 2017
Every Child Leaving Care Matters (ECLCM) is an independent, non-funded organisation that is not affiliated with any political party, however the organisation has almost 50 cross party MPs pledge of support.
As a care experience adult and having also experienced homelessness, I often wonder what it’s like for young people in the UK care system today who are about to face independent living.
For most young people in Britain, they have the support of their family, as they take the tentative steps towards running their own home and managing household budgets.
In the UK today, there are over 94, 000 young people who are currently being cared for by their Local Authority. These are not insignificant numbers by any stretch of the imagination. Think about it – that’s more than would fill any football stadium in the country! So for many of these young people like me, they are not likely to have the supporting relationships to help smooth the path to independent living.
The Children and Social Work Act 2017, has recently had Royal Assent making it a duty of the local authority in relation to the Corporate parenting principles and one of these are to prepare those children and young people for adulthood and independent living. I for one, welcome most this new legislation as it offers tangible possibilities for those who are care experienced. If leaving care services are implemented to its full effect, it should ensure that a base line for all young people forms part of their Leaving Care Plan throughout the UK.
Many Local Authorities currently offer some young people who are living in Foster Care placements the option to stay put until they are 21 years old. However, this is not in every young person’s case; for me it evidences that the system currently in place is fundamentally flawed as it is at the discretion of the Local Authority and of the Foster Carer. This cannot be right where one young person receives appropriate support to meet their individual needs until they are age 21 and another young person does not, particularly if they are in a residential setting. It feels to me like a post code lottery.
Indeed, as Sir Martin Narey’s recent recommendation for the Government to commit to ‘Staying Close’ is about to be trialled under the Innovation Program; it becomes an ever-increasing concern that this too will be subject to funding bias and the much-needed service will be diluted and at the discretion of the Local Authority. In addition ECLCM found was that there was a lack of care experienced voices evident within the consultation period prior to Staying Close pilots being trailed. ECLCM have expressed a view that the voice of those who would benefit from Staying Close needs to be wholeheartedly involved within the process.
Being a registered social worker, I am all too aware that funding often plays a significant role in the services being offered by Local Authorities and in times of austerity, services are often cut to ensure that Local Authorities do not over spend. This has never been truer as outlined within the Local Government Associations most recent published document citing a £2 Billion funding gap to the most vulnerable children by 2020. However, as preparing a young person for Independent living is now the duty of Local Authorities, it becomes imperative that all young people leaving care receive the best service; in essence one that is also not discriminatory.
Being a corporate parent is not a strapline, there are real responsibilities to keep young people safe, and should assist young people by supporting this transition period, because ‘every child leaving care matters’. However, given the current economic climate and continued austerity I remain sceptical that all care leavers will receive the service that they need.
I along with the @ResCareTo21 supporters believe that Local Authorities need to assist all young adult care leavers in a greater capacity and that this service is not subject to where a young person lives or to budget cuts. @ResCareTo21 have for the last 3 years campaigned for equality for all care leavers. The ECLCM proposal is that all leaving care services are fully funded by Central Government and regulated by Ofsted, to ensure consistency of service and good practice for care leavers throughout the UK. The ECLCM proposal will then negate the Local Authorities budget constraints.
ECLCM would like to invite IROs to involve the young people who are currently in the care of their Local Authority to make comment in relation to ECLCM’s outline proposal paper: CARING TEAMS
Please encourage young people to complete: ECLCM Questionnaire for young people
ECLCM Caring Teams proposal can be downloaded:
ECLCM Petition: here
Other publications by ECLCM: here