South Gloucestershire Council has signed up to the Care Leavers’ Covenant and agreed to enhance the package of support provided by the Council, as corporate parents, to care leavers in the area.
At the Council’s March Cabinet meeting, a number of new recommendations to further improve the care leavers’ local offer were agreed, building on the support already committed to by the authority.
The new offer was designed in conjunction with care leavers, and includes the following:
• Signing up to the national Care Leavers’ Covenant – https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/care-leaver-covenant–2
• Adopting a care leavers’ champions model where councillors champion a particular work area, meet operational staff and care leavers to fully understand their journey and offer a pledge
• Opportunities for education, employment & training, including the development of specialist support related to attending university, aspirations, applications and ongoing support. Each department is requested to commit to:
* six internal supported internship (two per department) year on year aimed for those with an Education Health and Care plan
* nine traineeships (three per department) year on year
* ring-fencing apprenticeships with priority for care leavers.
• A peer mentoring scheme where care leavers will offer their own experiences to support other young people. 1625IP has been commissioned to progress the pilot
• Digital support for a care leavers’ App to help address the isolation experienced by many care leavers. Co-produced with care leavers, the App can be customised to meet individual requirements and has been designed to include both national/statutory and local content
• Use of social value clauses in council contracts in procurement to specifically target activities that support care leavers into education, employment or training, or to offer a concession for care leavers
• Enabling care leavers to access and retain suitable accommodation. A revised joint protocol is intended to capture a number of recommendations and to set out a strong commitment to work together to address the housing and support needs of care leavers and to plan for transition to adulthood
• Funding for a health support worker in the Transitions to Independence Team to provide specific support for care leavers to manage their health and provide a link to universal and targeted health and wellbeing services.
Cabinet Member for Children and Young People Cllr Jon Hunt said: “We want all care leavers in South Gloucestershire to have the happiest, healthiest and most rewarding start to adulthood. As a council, we are dedicated to improving the lives and life chances of all our care leavers and want to ensure that they will have a suitable place to live, receive help with financial pressures and have access to employment, education or training. We have committed to do our best to support care leavers in achieving this and this covenant and offer sets out our promises to them.”
The Council has already adopted a high standard for its care leavers following government guidance on what a good corporate parent should provide in terms of support for:
• further and higher education
• top-up funding to enable a care leaver to manage to live independently if they find themselves on benefits
• provision of a Setting Up home grant
• supporting Staying Put arrangements with former foster carers
• access for the majority of care leavers to live in suitable accommodation.
Our Local Offer for care leavers has been further enhanced through approval and support by the Council and partners in 2019 for:
• council tax relief for all care leavers up to their 25th birthday
• band A status for Home Choice for all care leavers up to their 25th birthday
• guaranteed interviews for care leavers applying for Council apprenticeships
• cross-council support for funding and organising an annual Christmas dinner
• council support to set up a Charity to fund events and opportunities
• development of Woodleaze supported accommodation
• development of high support flats
• joint commissioning of Reboot West through a Social Impact Bond with regional partners to support care leavers who have difficulties accessing education, employment or training
• increased weekly allowance to £60 from £57.50 pw for care leavers who are NEET or unable to access welfare benefits
• an Off The Record mental health support worker for 12 months pilot.