Select Committee on Children, Schools and Families Written Evidence


Memorandum submitted by The Foyer Federation

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

  This response focuses on two aspects of the Children and Young Persons Bill: The Training and Education section of the Bill and the general lack of support arrangements in the Bill for young people leaving care. The Foyer Federation welcomes the bursary for children in care going on to higher education. However, we are concerned that this bursary does not apply to further education and non-academic choices. Furthermore, we are calling for a duty to be imposed on local authorities to equip children and young people in their care with the necessary life skills to succeed in independent living when leaving care.

INTRODUCTION

  1.1  The Foyer Federation develops and encourages new approaches to support young people as they make the transition to adulthood, particularly those who are at risk through homelessness, family breakdown or other factors. We work through a network of over 130 accredited Foyers providing holistic services to around 10,000 young people a year around the UK. At the heart of the Foyer approach is a formal commitment between the young person and the Foyer. For more than a decade, we have helped develop accredited learning programmes, initiatives in areas such as health and wellbeing and early intervention and quality assurance. Our campaigning and advocacy work draws directly on the experience of young people themselves.

  1.2  The Foyer Federation is now attempting to apply the holistic Foyer approach more widely and develop new approaches that better meet the needs of those young people whose journey to adulthood is particularly difficult eg care leavers, young offenders and other vulnerable young people. As part of this the Foyer Federation has been awarded a development grant and working capital by Futurebuilders England to expand our programme of providing care leavers, young offenders and young people at risk with integrated services that support their housing, employment, education, and provide personal life choices.

  1.3  The Foyer Federation and YMCA England jointly responded to the Green Paper Care Matters: Transforming the Lives of Children and Young People in Care, in consultation with young people living in Foyers and YMCAs.

  1.4  In this response the Foyer Federation has chosen to focus on two aspects of the current Children and Young Persons Bill. The first aspect relates specifically to the Education and Training section of the Bill. The second part relates to the general lack of support arrangements in the Bill for young people leaving care.

EDUCATION AND TRAINING

  2.1  The Foyer Federation welcomes the decision to implement the bursary for children in care who is attending or wishes to attend higher education, and furthermore welcomes the decision that children in care will have a personal advisor up to the age of 25, who will be able to give advice of how to continue with further training or learning if so desired.

  2.2  However, in its response to the Green Paper the Foyer Federation recommended that a package of support was made available alongside the bursary.

  2.3  The Foyer Federation's Bursary Project provides Foyer residents with £1,000 per year from the HEFCE Access to Learning Fund. Since 2002, the Foyer University Bursary Project has supported over 600 Foyer residents to enter university. 40% of students who received the bursary said that knowledge of the scheme had influenced their decision to take up or apply for a place in higher education. However, our experience tells us that the additional support available to young people applying to university has been crucial in ensuring that their applications are successful.

  2.4  Furthermore, the Foyer Federation is concerned that the bursary only applies to higher education and does not apply to further education and non-academic choices, such as A-Levels, BTECS and NVQs. As the Green Paper recognised, the educational achievements of many young people leaving care are lower than the national average, mainly due to the disruption they have experienced in their lives. Young people who have experienced such disruption deserve a chance to catch up with their peers, and should therefore be supported to continue their education.

ARRANGEMENTS WHEN LEAVING CARE

  3.1  The Foyer Federation is concerned with the lack of arrangements and duties in the Bill relating to young people leaving care. We believe that a duty should be placed on local authorities to equip young people in their care with the necessary life skills to succeed in independent living and plan for provisions when young people are leaving care.

  3.2  The Foyer Federation believes that the transition young people make from care to independence should focus on the stage they've reached, rather than their age, and therefore recognises that the extension for young people to remain in care until the age of 21 is an acknowledgement of this. However, attention and resources should also be dedicated to supporting young people in making a positive transition beyond the care system. We feel that a comprehensive package of activities to prepare young people for this progression would be of wider benefit to all young people in care.

  3.3  Learning and life skills are at the heart of the Foyer holistic ethos. These include activities that help build confidence, self esteem and motivation and enable young people to develop a sense of their own identity and build and sustain meaningful relationships.

  3.4  Since 2003 the Foyer Federation has been a lead partner in the national Learning and Skills Council's Homelessness Sector Pilot, a key outcome of which has been the development of the Certificate in Self-Development through Learning, a learning programme accredited by City and Guilds and, importantly, recognised by the Qualification and Curriculum Authority on the National Qualifications Framework. This modular programme offers Foyer residents the opportunity to gain accreditation through the personal development work they undertake while resident in the Foyer.

  3.5  The Foyer Federation believes that this programme can be delivered to young people in care preparing them for independent living, and could form part of a comprehensive package of support that local authorities should be under a duty to provide to young people in their care.

RECOMMENDATIONS FOR ACTION

   4.1  That consideration is given to the fact that the bursary only applies to higher education, and excludes further education. The Foyer Federation recommend that the Children and Young Persons Bill is amended so that the bursary will also be applicable to young people in care undertaking or wishing to undertake further education or non-academic qualifications.

  4.2  That a duty is placed on local authorities to equip young people in their care with the necessary life skills to succeed in independent living and plan for provisions when young people are leaving care.

January 2008





 
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