Memorandum submitted by What Makes the
Difference? and National Leaving Care Advisory Service at Rainer
The National Leaving Care Advisory Service (NLCAS)
has the single focus of policy and practice in relation to young
people as they prepare to move on from care and have left care.
It provides a range of information, advice and project services
to policy makers and service providers.
What Makes The Difference? (WMTD) is a project
that is working to identify ways to improve poor outcomes for
older children in care and leaving care in England. WMTD is a
large partnership involving 60 organisations from national and
local government, voluntary and independent sectors and is partly
funded by the European Social Fund EQUAL initiative. To facilitate
success, young people from care are at the heart of every part
of the project. The National Leaving Care Advisory Service is
part of Rainer, the young people's charity. Rainer is the lead
partner in What Makes The Difference?
In late 2006, we undertook a peer research project,
in which 265 young people aged between 15 and 23 from 25 local
authorities were asked what made the difference and what could
have made a difference while they were in and leaving care. The
research was carried out by young people from care, trained and
supported by us.
From November 2006 to January 2007, we ran four
regional consultation events with young people on the Care
Matters Green Paper. 339 young people from care and 426 professionals
from over 90 local authorities and 15 private and voluntary agencies
submitted their views at these events.
What Makes The Difference? (WMTD) and the National
Leaving Care Advisory Service (NLCAS) are strongly supportive
of the majority of the provisions in the Children and Young Person's
Bill. However, we believe the provisions in the Bill could be
strengthened in a number of ways to improve outcomes for young
people in and leaving care.
The evidence contained in this submission is
based on the key messages from the two year What Makes the Difference
Project? and research carried out by Rainer.
1. Corporate parenting
I. We welcome the Committee's specific request
for evidence on the impact Care MattersTime for Change
on corporate parenting. We have done significant work in this
area, including research with care experienced young people.
II. In the peer research project, young
people were asked, "what made the difference for you?"
45% of respondents identified the quality of the relationships
they had with key individuals. Specifically.
III. Personalised care: To make the difference
in terms of emotional wellbeing and improving outcomes corporate
parents have to develop services that fill the individual child's
"parenting gap". Lead professionals and carers, alongside
local authorities, must work hard to personalise the care they
provideas good parents would.
IV. Go the extra mile: Behind most young
people who succeed is an individual who "goes the extra mile"
and has "made the difference"eg the "pushy
carer/worker" who provides care the young person needs, often
"in spite of" the system. Good relationships will provide
the attachment that these young people need to succeed.
V. Involving everyone: Corporate parenting
can't be solely about lead members and Children's Services Directors.
As importantmore important to young peopleare the
lead professionals/carers involved in their day to day lives.
They are the people who are the front line in providing care and
can truly make a difference. At present systems all too often
do not empower these people to do their jobs as they should.
VI. Take more risks: Good parents have to
take risks. Social care has become risk averse. Corporate parents
have to manage risk far better than at present and governments
have to support them to do so. Excessive bureaucracy/administrationespecially
for lead professionals and carersdoes not personalise services
and can undermine success. In social care recording is important,
professionalism is essential but as normal a process of parenting
as possible is crucial if we are to make the difference.
VII. Listen to children and young people
and empower them: At local and national levels services would
be improved by really listening to what young people are saying
and working with them to provide it. No good parent would provide
care without full discussion and involvement of their children.
This provides the secure basis of their emotional wellbeing.
VIII. Take the lead: Too many corporate
parents give poor consideration to the employability of young
people in and from care. This is despite them often being the
most able to provide enormous opportunity for learning within
their own and other local organisations. If local authorities
are to do the best for care experienced children and young people
they must exploit their own opportunities more.
I. We strongly welcome the provisions in
Time for Change to make payments to care leavers who are
pursuing higher education. Young people who took part in our Care
Matters consultation events said they would like to see these
provisions extended to include those care leavers who wish to
pursue further education, apprenticeships and vocational training.
While it is of course admirable to promote higher education, it
needs to be realised that, when 66% of care leavers do not gain
a single GCSE, higher education is beyond the reach of many of
these young people. In contrast, further education, apprenticeships
and vocational training could make a real difference to improving
their life chances.
II. The poor statistics relating to the
educational achievements of children and young people in care
are well known. According to Government statistics:
66% of children in care did not gain
a single GCSE or GNVQ.
Only 7% obtained at least 5 GCSEs
at grade A* to C.
At age 19, 26% of care leavers are
in further education and only 6% are in higher education.
29% of care leavers are not in education,
training or employment at age 19.
III. Our peer research indicated that:
46% said they had needed additional
education support while at school. Over a third (36%) said they
had not received this.
Black and minority ethnic young people
were more likely to be in education, training and employment than
their white counterparts.
39% felt that their time in care
had affected what they had been able to do after care, especially
in relation to education.
IV. Personalised education support: Evidence
from What Makes the Difference? reveals that additional, more
personalised support in education and training for children in
care and care leavers does make a positive difference to outcomes.
V. In one local authority where individual
tuition was provided for a year to year 11 pupils: Out of 17 young
people who sat formal examinations, 11 of them (65%) exceeded
predicted grades, some of them far exceeding them. Other positive
outcomes included increased school attendance, reduced school
exclusions and greater confidence/self esteem.
3. Transition to adulthood
I. In our peer research project:
66% left care before they were age
49% had received no written information
from their local authority before leaving care.
88% felt care leavers should have
the option to return to supported accommodation if a move to independent
living did not work out.
II. For all young people learning about
adult life must be experimental. It must be well planned, as safe
as possible and at a pace that young people can cope withand
most importantly it must have a "safety net" attached.
III. We strongly support proposals made
by Barnardo's which recommend a transitional stage for young people
leaving care. The average young person does not leave home until
24, and will usually go safe in the knowledge that they can call
on their parents for advice and support. Care leavers do not have
this safety net and their outcomes in employment, education, housing
and health indicate significant failings in their preparation
and readiness for adult life. Indeed, our peer research showed
that 38% of young people with care experience believe they are
simply left to "get on with it" without any input or
preparation when the time came to live independently.
IV. A new transitional status for care leavers
would go some way to providing a much needed safety net for these
young people and could do wonders in boosting their chances of
developing a successful independent life.
V. It is proposed that this new approach
has three main elements:
A new transitional status for young
people leaving care between the age of 16-21 years that becomes
relevant whenever they leave care and that provides the same degree
of care and protection to them without labelling them as a young
person "in care".
An Accommodation and Support Strategy
for Care Leavers 16-25 Years, including care and transitional
accommodation up to age 21 and supported accommodation up to age
A guarantee of employment, education
or training placement for all young people in transition of leaving
care, up to age 21 years.
4. The role of the practitioner (including
training and workforce development)
I. In order to become better corporate parents,
we believe that care professionals need to have a better understanding
of older children plus skills and knowledge in child development
and parenting, particularly of teenagers. The training of care
professionals therefore needs to have a clearer focus on these
issues. There are no proposals in Time for Change to cover
this although we welcome the interest shown in pedagogic approaches.
5. Additional messages: Accommodation
I. The issue of accommodation for care leavers
is notable in its absence from Time for Change and subsequent
legislation. Cross-government co-operation is essential if this
vital area is to be improved.
II. Young people who have been in care are
still overrepresented in those young people who are homeless.
In Life After Care (Joseph Rowntree 2005) 36% of young people
reported being homeless at some time in the year after leaving
care. Through our work with local authorities across the country,
we know that the availability of both supported and permanent
accommodation varies greatly. While local housing shortages may
contribute to this, it is also caused by inconsistent planning
and provision of accommodation with support and the quality of
cooperation between children's services and local housing authorities.
Often it is simply a failure to plan for something that it is
known that almost all young people will need.
III. Rainer's Home Alone report found that
almost one in six (16%) of care leavers were in unsuitable accommodation
with a number of interviewees in unsafe or completely inappropriate
IV. Thirty per cent of care leavers interviewed
by A National Voice for their publication, No Place like Home,
did not feel safe where they were living.
V. There are a number of practical, systemic
changes that would have an enormous impact on the quality of accommodation
for care leavers:
Post 18 foster placements. In many
local authorities there is already the opportunity for young people
to remain with foster carers beyond 18 and Care Matters proposes
that eventually this will be available to many more young people.
The arrangement however, is informal and unregulated and relies
heavily on the goodwill of foster carers.
Supported accommodation. Similarly,
the vast majority of supported accommodation for young people
is not covered by Ofsted regulation and inspection. We would like
to see regulations covering all accommodation and placements used
by young people as they move from care to independence.
A specific section on housing for
care leavers within Local Authority homelessness strategies, signed
off jointly by the Director of Housing and Director of Children's
A presumption against declaring any
care leaver intentionally homeless. Such a declaration should
only be made in cases of serious anti social behaviour or other
6. Additional messages: The "Pledge"
to improve corporate parenting
I. The Pledge will be a promise from a local
authority to all of its children in care, including care leavers,
detailing what it will provide for them in terms of its services
and support. The proposal was overwhelmingly supported by young
people during the consultation period for the Green Paper, although
they had some strong caveats about how it should be developed.
II. We strongly believe that the process
behind developing the pledge is as critical as the content. There
should be no "one size fits all" answer, and the success
of the pledge will depend on whether local authorities take into
account the particular issues in their area, listen to the needs
of their children and young people and take into account the things
that matter to them. In addition to ensuring that the pledge meets
their needs, involving young people in its development could have
significant additional benefits. Children in and leaving care
have better outcomes when they are empowered to act positively
and effect change in their own lives. It will also offer the children
and young people the opportunity to develop new skills and establish
7. Additional messages: Young People from
a care background in custody
I. The original Care Matters Green
Paper committed to increased support from all young people in
custody from a care background (whether through a care order or
voluntarily accommodated). The subsequent White Paper and Bill
have watered down these commitments somewhat, though we are hopeful
that regulations will ensure that all looked after young people
who enter custody have access to a proper resettlement package
supported by the children's services team.
II. Research from the Rainer-lead RESET
programme found that there are potential net cost savings of £80
million per year to be made by properly supporting young people's
resettlement back into the community from custody. This means
providing effective support around education, employment, accommodation
and links to family and carers.
III. In 2004-05, 54% of those leaving young
offender institutions had no recorded education, training or employment
place. Thirteen per cent left with no recorded accommodation (Hansard
quoted by Prison Reform Trust). In 2005-06 around a quarter of
boys in custody were held over 50 miles away from their home.
Almost half of girls were (YJB).
IV. For young people from a care background
this absolutely requires the involvement of the children's services
or leaving care team. The pilot programme placing social workers
within the secure estate has proven how important maintaining
these links can be, particularly when just over one quarter (27%)
of the population in custody have been taken into care (Social
Exclusion Unit). Leaving Care Teams/Children's Services must maintain
the relationship with all young people taken into custody and
play an active part in their resettlement.