Memorandum submitted by the Foyer Federation

Executive summary

This response focuses on the following aspects of the Government's white paper Care Matters: Time for Change:

Corporate parenting;

Family and parenting support;

Education;

Health and wellbeing;

Transition to adulthood;

Young offenders.

 

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 e.g. 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.

Corporate Parenting:

2.1 In its response to the Green Paper, the Foyer Federation recommended that effective partnership working required Government to nurture cooperation between LAs and the voluntary sector, especially with regard to pooling resources and sharing information. In the White Paper the Government reiterates their partnership based approach between local authorities and the voluntary sector, but the main focus is on partnership working with the private sector.

2.2 Although partnership with the private sector to improve children in care's educational attainment and employment opportunities is important, the Foyer Federation is disappointed that the White Paper does not properly emphasise the voluntary sector's role more thoroughly and highlights the sector's ability to work with vulnerable young people to develop vital life skills training. It would also have been an ideal opportunity to have highlighted how the private and voluntary sector can work together in partnership to increase disadvantaged young people's life chances. For example the Foyer Federation has an ongoing partnership with Virgin and DSG International to provide work placements and life skills training in Foyers.

2.3 The White Paper sets out an expectation that local authorities should make a 'pledge' to children in their care which will cover the services and support children in care should expect to receive. The Foyer Federation welcomes this initiate and recognises that the Government sees empowerment and participation of their children in care as key to better outcomes. It is however essential that the 'pledge' is disseminated and made available to all children in care in a format that is easy to read and understand.

2.4 In the Foyer Federation's response to the Green Paper we raised concerns about social workers not remaining consistent for a guaranteed period of time for children in care. We welcome that White Paper's focus on securing attachment and building the resilience of children in care, of which having contact with a consistent social worker is of vital importance. Therefore, if local authorities were made to guarantee access to a consistent social worker for a guaranteed period of time the child's sense of security would be enhanced.

2.5 The White Paper also sets out the idea of an 'Independent Visitor'. The Foyer Federation sees this initiative as positive, but is concerned that it is not clear to what extent the child will have a final decision as to who is assigned to them in this role. Foyer believes that this needs to be clarified in order for the Independent Visitor to have maximum benefit to a young person's life.

Family and parenting support:

3.1 The Foyer Federation welcomes the focus on early intervention and prevention, and putting resources into enabling the child as far as possible to remain with their families.

3.2 The Foyer Federation ran a successful early intervention project, Safe Moves, from 2003 to 2005. The project's aim was to prevent young people between the age of 13-19 from leaving their family home in the first place, andif following the intervention they still felt the need to move out of their family home they could do so in a non-chaotic and structured way. The project focused on three main factors: peer mentoring, family mediation and life skills training. The life skills training was carried out by Safe Moves workers located in Foyers.

3.3 Safe Moves was developed as a direct response to needs identified by young people in Foyers and their experiences of homelessness. The project was piloted in four dissimilar locations and evaluated by the University of York Centre for Housing Policy and was found to be 'fit for purpose' and 'value for money'.

3.4 Although the project focused specifically on youth homelessness, the project showed that in order for prevention work to be a success the focus must not only be on the needs of the family and parents, but also the young person.

 

Education:

 

4.1 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.

4.2 We are however 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 the education of their choice.

4.3 Another issue relating to educational achievement is the proposal to introduce a 'tick-box' on university applications to identify children in care. Although the intention is to identify people in need of further support, this suggestion might not be welcomed by applicants who could feel further stigmatised.

4.4 In its response to the Green Paper the Foyer Federation recommended that DCSF should promote a programme of early intervention around life skills and independent living skills before young people leave care placements. We also recommended that the White Paper should focus less on schools and FE colleges as providers of life skills training, and that the voluntary sector would be better placed to deliver a more suitable holistic approach.

4.5 We believe that the White Paper does not highlight the voluntary sector's ability to provide a holistic service to these service users. In our response to the DSCF Select Committee enquiry into the Children and Young Person's Bill we called for a duty to be placed on local authorities to provide young people leaving care with the necessary life skills to succeed in independent living. Life skills provision is at the heart of the Foyer ethos and our Certificate in Self-Development through Learning is an accredited learning programme by City and Guilds and, importantly, recognised by the Qualification and Curriculum Authority on the National Qualifications Framework.

4.6 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.

Health and well-being:

5.1 The Foyer Federation welcomes the White Paper's focus on children in care's health and well-being, including the increased focus on sex and relationship education, and free part-time access to positive activities.

5.2 We also welcome the focus on increased funding to the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services, and that statutory guidance will be issued to ensure CAHMS provide targeted provision to children in care.

5.3 However, in the Green Paper response we did raise concerns over the proposed compulsory screening for substance misuse, as it would exacerbate the stigma of being in care.

Transition to adulthood:

6.1 The Foyer Federation was very positive with any suggestions which focused on 'stage not age' and therefore backed the Government's proposal in the Green Paper to expand the care system to 21.

6.2 A significant part of the transition to adulthood is the role of suitable accommodation. The Foyer Federation recommended that guaranteed revenue funding becomes available for supported housing for a range of young people. Furthermore, it was not seen as the best solution to provide accommodation exclusively for care leavers. Instead they need to be integrated into society and with other young people.

6.3 Therefore, the Foyer Federation supports the indication in the White Paper that the Government does not see care leavers as being in need of separate accommodation. The Foyer model has already proven a successful supported housing project for many vulnerable young people, including care leavers, and we hope that the Government will recognise this and support us in the future to develop our services even more.

6.4 Another significant part of a successful transition to adulthood is the development of practical life skills, as mentioned above.

6.5 In our response to this Select Committee's enquiry into the Children and Young Person's Bill we recommended that a duty 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.

Young offenders:

7.1 In our response to the Green Paper the Foyer Federation suggested that it would be useful for young people to have an opportunity to 'wipe the slate clean' after a certain period of time, as children in care tend to have more problems with ASBOs and the police which can hinder their further progression in life when trying to access accommodation and employment.

7.2 We believe that the White Paper has not sufficiently addressed this issue, which could prove to be a great barrier for children in care.

 

 

Recommendations for action:

That the Government puts more emphasis on partnership working with the voluntary sector, including the sector's ability to work with vulnerable young people to develop vital life skills training, and its ability to provide vital holistic services;

That the Government focuses not only on family and parenting support, but also recognises the impact peer mentoring can have on a young person's ability to remain in the family home;

That consideration is given to the fact that the bursary only applies to higher education, and excludes further education and other non-academic choices. The bursary should also be applicable to young people in care undertaking or wishing to undertake further education or non-academic qualifications;

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.

That children in care who have been involved in the criminal justice system will be given a chance to 'wipe the slate clean'.