Durham County Council have revealed plans to offer more support to young people who have left local authority care, particularly with regards to managing their finances and accessing training.
The council’s cabinet heard last week how provisions for care leavers – who are seen as a particularly vulnerable group – are being extended in order to comply with the requirements of the government’s Children and Social Work Bill.
It is hoped that these new measures will complement the work the council has already done to support care leavers to make sure that these young people are provided with the skills and knowledge to enjoy independent and fulfilling lives.
Cllr Ossie Johnson, Durham County Council’s cabinet member for children and young people’s services, said, “We already provide comprehensive assistance to care leavers, such as extensive help with education, employment and training via the Durham Works programme, and specialist mental health and substance abuse support.”
“Our chief executive, Terry Collins, also continues to champion the needs of care leavers and meets with them on a regular basis.”
“Now, as part of efforts to further improve, we are looking at a range of other measures including extending access to personal advisors who provide financial advice until care leavers are 25, and working with the Department for Work and Pensions to make it easier for young people to access the benefits they are entitled to, with the right support from the council – much as any good parent would provide – to encourage care leavers to take apprenticeships.”
The NSPCC says that, while most young people who have been in care say that their experiences were good and it was the right choice for them, such youngsters are four times more likely to experience mental health difficulties than their peers. They also tend to do less well at school and a small proportion continue to experience abuse or neglect while they are in care.
In 2014, 34% of 19-year-olds who had left care were not in education, employment or training compared to 15.5% of the general population of the same age.
Recently, a group of care leavers from County Durham challenged local councillors and care workers to live on £57.90 a week, the amount care leavers receive in benefits.