Government bosses have pledged £19m to improve the lives of vulnerable young people who are leaving care.
Education secretary Gavin Williamson announced the multi-million-pound programme today as part of National Care Leavers Week, saying the scheme will focus on helping young care leavers access better housing, healthcare and employment opportunities.
He said the funding will help launch and expand programmes including Staying Put, which helps care leavers stay with their foster families until they’re 21, Pupil Premium Plus which supports 16-18-year-olds as they transition into further education and Staying Close, which will be rolled out in 2021/22 and will allow young people to receive support from their previous carers.
He also pledged to create 1,000 paid internships as part of the existing Civil Service Internship Scheme, which works with other public sector bodies including the NHS, Ministry of Defence civilian roles, police and the fire service to help care leavers find new employment opportunities.
Mr Williamson also announced plans to form a cross-departmental board, made up of secretaries of state from relevant government departments, which he said will meet three times a year to address the key barriers facing young care leavers. He said:
‘Young people leaving care face enormous barriers in their lives as they move towards independence, from not having a trusted person in their life to rely on, to not having a safe home to return to at the end of the day.
‘Housing, healthcare and education are three of the biggest obstacles they have to overcome. We all have a responsibility to do better for them – so I’m bringing together colleagues from across government to join me in transforming the support we offer care leavers in all of these key areas to make the biggest difference in their lives.
‘This starts immediately because we must raise the bar for these young people, to give them greater stability and a strong sense of purpose in adulthood.’
Katharine Sacks-Jones, chief executive for the charity Become, said she welcomed the new support for care leavers but felt more needs to be done. She said:
‘We hear from far too many young people leaving care who find themselves isolated, uncertain about their rights, and at risk of harm.
‘Increasing funding for Pupil Premium Plus and expanding Staying Put will help support young people’s positive transitions into adult life. However, we need to go further – knowing where you’re going to live as a young adult must become the norm for all teenagers in care, not the exception.
‘The issues young care leavers face cannot be solved by a single government department and so we’re pleased to see the establishment of a cross-departmental board. We hope this board will deliver meaningful change across housing, education, health, welfare and beyond including recognising that being in care can affect someone right across their life.
‘The government must make sure that all young people who’ve been in care receive ongoing support and a helping hand to give them the best start in life, just as any other child would expect from their parents.’
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