Memorandum submitted by the National Care advisory service

 

 

Please find attached the evidence from the National Care Advisory Service (NCAS), part of the national charity Catch22. We are the national advice, support and development service for young people in and from care (age 13-25), their corporate parents and those who support them.

 

Our response complements the response of the broader Catch22 charity and focuses specifically on provision for children and young people in the transition from care, which is our area of expertise.

 

Further information about NCAS and our From Care2Work programme is available on our website www.leavingcare.org

 

 

Executive summary

 

1. Young people in and from care are especially vulnerable to be not in education, training and employment (NEET). Statutory duties on local authorities to support young people in and from care offer an opportunity of early identification and targeted support for this group of NEET young people. However, services cannot address this issue in a vacuum. They need to engage with a range of partner providers to ensure that young people from care can get support with education, training and employment (ETE) that meets their aspirations and needs. This will include, among others, working with schools, further education colleges, the National Apprenticeship Service, Information, Advice and Guidance providers, training providers, Jobcentre plus, Connexions, employers and other departments within their own authority.

 

2. Young people in and from care also need the funding to enable them to pursue their chosen career paths including support for apprenticeships, higher and further education. As these young people often have to manage on their own without the support of their families or carers it is essential that they have access swift access to national support schemes, including benefits, and that their local authorities as corporate parents assist them when there are no other sources of support.

 

Introduction

3. About NCAS

3.1 The National Care Advisory Service (NCAS) focuses on improving young people's transition from care. We are the national advice, support and development service for young people in and from care (age 13-25), their corporate parents and those who support them. NCAS works at local, regional, national and EU levels to develop solutions based on good corporate parenting that include and empower young people and influence professionals and policy-makers to continually improve service quality and outcomes. We maintain national links to leaving care services in England by supporting regional and national forums for managers and direct work with local authorities. We also engage young people through our regional participation forums in Yorkshire and Humber and the West Midlands and nationally through our Young People's Benchmarking Forum.

 

4 Care leaver's education, training and employment outcomes

4.1 Young people leaving care have significantly poorer outcomes than their peers in relation to education, training and employment. The latest Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) statistics showed that age 19 only 63% of care leavers were in education, training or employment[1]. They are also less likely than other young people to achieve in education, which impacts on their future employment prospects. Only 7% of young people over 16 left care in 2008/09 with at least 5 GCSEs grade A*-C and 44% had at least one GCSE or GNVQ.[2]

5 From Care2Work

5.1 Our project From Care2Work seeks to narrow the gap between care leavers and their peers. It is managed and delivered by NCAS on behalf of the DCSF. The programme works with local authorities, national employers and other stakeholders to increase the employability of care leavers through creating new opportunities, raising aspirations and improving access to existing employability schemes.

Evidence and recommendations

6 Strategies for the identification of young people at risk of falling into the "NEET" category

6.1 Joint working between leaving care services and Connexions

6.1.1 We already know that care leavers are a particular at risk of becoming NEET. They are also generally in contact with local authority children's and leaving care services, providing a means of early identification and direct support through pathway planning. Catch22 16plus in Kent is example of this, which is highlighted in the submission of our parent charity Catch22.

6.1.2 However, leaving care support provided through pathway planning can be boosted by using the expertise of local specialist ETE services. Joint working is therefore essential. In some local authorities, e.g. Barnsley, Connexions personal advisers have been seconded to leaving care teams to provide dedicated support with education, training and employment (ETE), which has supported more care leavers into ETE. In other areas, e.g. Devon, joint working has been embedded through joint working protocols.

6.2 Devon joint working protocol

6.2.1 Devon social services have developed a joint protocol with Connexions to ensure that if any care leaver is NEET, or at risk of becoming NEET, prompt action is taken to avoid this. A key element to this is effective exchange of information. Following the protocol, social services inform Connexions of all looked after children in their area and Connexions provide quarterly updates of the destinations of those young people. Named workers are identified on both sides and information from Connexions informs individual pathway planning for young people. There are quarterly meeting between the Practice Manager for the Care Leavers service and their Connexion counterpart to review the support offered to any young person who is NEET. This meeting also focuses on developments in the service and working relationships.

6.2.2 If a young person has lost their ETE place, or is at risk of doing so, the protocol states that agencies must work together to ensure an appropriate alternative package is in place. Where available, structures provided by the further education college, 6th form or training advisors may be used to address the concerns. If not the Care Leavers' worker calls an urgent multi-agency meeting, which brings together Connexions, carers/host and any other relevant agency such as the youth offending team or Devon Action (a local authority scheme offering work experience). For a minority of young people who cannot return to ETE, other options such as Prince's Trust or the Sir Frances Chichester scheme are considered. The meeting draws up a plan to support the young person to remain in or return to ETE. Connexions can play a valuable role in advising on possible options for the young person, as well as using their knowledge of the suitability of each option to the specific young person.

6.3 Recommendation

6.3.1 A Protocol for sharing information between social services, leaving care and Connexions teams should exist in all local authorities to ensure coordinated support for those persistently disengaged. All care leavers should therefore be known to the Connexions CCIS system with the percentage of care leavers categorised as 'not known' being zero. This exchange of data should also enable leaving care managers to have accurate monthly data on 16-18 year old care leavers who are NEET.

6.3.2 Clarity regarding measurement of performance indicators would assist joint working local authorities. The calculation of the 16-18 local NEET figure (NI 117) excludes young people in custody or asylum seekers who have not been granted citizenship whereas NI 148 which measures the participation of care leavers at age 19 does not exclude similar categories. NI 148 does however allow for young people who are unemployed but attending a New Deal programme to be counted as 'in training', which does not then fit with measurement of the 18-24 youth unemployment rates. NCAS would recommend a review of the parameters of NI 148 to align with performance indicators held by other departments

6.3.3 At the Ministerial stocktake event in November care leavers questioning the Secretary of State, Ed Balls also highlighted the issue of young mothers being pressured to return to ETE very soon after the birth of their children. The extent of such practices and the impact on mothers and children needs to be explored further.

7 Services and programmes to support those most at risk of becoming "NEET", and to reduce the numbers and address the needs of those who have become persistently "NEET"

7.1 From Care2Work

7.1.1 From Care2Work is a DCSF initiative, managed by NCAS, seeking to create opportunities and raise the aspirations of young people leaving care in England. Engaged with over 130 local authorities, developing ambitious work plans to improve the employability outcomes for young people leaving care, this will include the creation of opportunities within each local authority as a measure of responsible corporate parenting. National companies such as the Marriott Hotel Group, Tesco and Kier Construction have given their commitment to supporting young people with a range of employability support packages, including work experience, mentoring, and apprenticeships. The sustainability plans of this programme will ensure that there will remain a focus on offering meaningful employability opportunities for young people leaving care in the future, and will support the NEET prevention strategy. As part of this work we are seeking to embed career planning in care and pathway planning for young people in and from care.

7.2 Career start - Islington

 

7.2.1 Career Start is the Local Authority scheme created to offer ring-fenced employment and work experience opportunities to young people in care and care leavers in Islington. It gives access to opportunities and the right support to give young people the best chances of success.

 

7.2.2 Since the scheme started all service areas across the council, as well as Islington's contractors, have provided opportunities ranging from work shadowing, work experience placements, short term and long term contracts, apprenticeships and permanent jobs.

 

7.2.3 Since its implementation in 2005 36% of young people who accessed the programme achieve and remain in employment or work-focused activity, whilst 55% access further or higher education.

7.3 Recommendations

7.3.1 All local authorities should engage with From Care2Work and use the project to develop a work plan to improve employability outcomes of care leavers in their area. It is essential that this work is then embedded in care and pathway planning and service delivery for young people in and from care. Therefore, the amended care planning and transitions guidance that will be published in 2010 should include a requirement for local authorities:

To ensure that the interests and future goals of young people drawn upon from an early age, prioritised and embedded into their 'Personal Education Plan' to inform the care planning and later pathway planning process for all children and young people in and from care. The career planning process should help young people recognise the relevance of their studies to their future career and life roles and incorporate ongoing self-assessment addressing their skills, strengths and aspirations.

Work with their partners, mapping and work planning to identify developments needed to address the employment, education and training needs of care leavers in their areas. Work plans should be reviewed annually and outline how the local authority will seek to improve ETE outcomes for care leavers. They should ensure that care leavers are aware of and get access to work experience apprenticeship and other training and employment opportunities.

Strive to achieve the From Care2Work Quality Mark as an employer enabling opportunities care leavers.

8. The effectiveness of the Government's NEET strategy

8.1 Delayed educational careers requires support post-18

8.1.1 Care leavers are more likely to have delayed educational careers. Frequent placement moves or difficulties at key points of their educational careers will mean that they need support later. The focus on 16-18 years olds is therefore not always helpful to this group. Young people in care are likely to leave home younger and have more abrupt transitions to adulthood than their peers. Many are still expected to live independently and manage their own income and household, as soon as they reach legal adulthood or in some cases as young as 16, whereas most other young people remain in their family home and are supported by their parents. Financial and practical support to pursue education, training and employment from local authorities or welfare benefits is therefore essential for them to be able to manage independent living and achieve their aspirations.

8.2 Claiming financial support and assistance

8.2.1 In the spring of 2009 we conducted an evidence gathering exercise to identify the issues care leavers faced with the benefits system. We found that the short term and low paid employment opportunities open to the many care leavers with limited qualifications will not necessarily make them better off, and they can sometimes not participate in schemes that will improve their employability without losing benefits entitlements. Care leavers may lose their benefits if they undertake activities for over 16 hours a week (i.e. if they undertake work experience programmes), or if they are too old to be entitled to support with second chance learning (i.e. to build up the qualifications that they have missed out on through interrupted educational careers when younger). Currently care leavers can access income support and housing benefits in further education up until age 21, but only as long as they begin their course before they turn 19.

 

8.2.2 Care leavers are an especially vulnerable group of young people and they can often be disadvantaged in a benefits system that is difficult to navigate. The call centre system and delays in processing claims are extra stressors at a time when young people are dealing with a lot of change in their lives. Poor communication between services and lack of joint working processes can make it difficult for leaving care services to support young people with their claims. Delays in payments can be a real disincentive for young people to attempt employment or education as if they do not manage it; they face great potential gaps in income. Delays with Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) are also a real concern. In addition Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children face restrictions on access to EMA which provides another barrier to ETE.

 

8.2.3 We also found that specialised support schemes set up by leaving care services to address care leavers employability are not always recognised by Job centre plus services.

 

8.3 Recommendations

 

8.3.1 The role of the under-18 Specialist Advisers in Jobcentre plus services should be extended to cover care leavers (18-25) and a benefits lead should be established in each leaving care team. These named contacts would improve communications, establish a framework for joint working, resolve many of the difficulties with processing benefits and keep up-to-date with entitlements and current issues for care leavers.

 

8.3.2 Local authorities running employability schemes for care leavers should be recognised as 'partner providers' by Jobcentre plus, and such schemes would fulfil the requirements of Job seekers agreements. NCAS are working with the DCSF and DWP to develop draft models of such agreements.

8.3.3 Given their vulnerability the DWP/Future Jobs Fund (FJF) should treat all care leavers supported by social services as having attained the qualifying period sufficient to access opportunities. Currently young people are only able to access opportunities via FJF if they have been signing consistently for a period of 26 weeks.

8.3.4 Given the often interrupted and delayed educational careers of many young people in and leaving care they are more in need of support for second chance learning than other young people. Care leavers should be able to take up non-advanced education at any point until their 25th birthday and continue to claim housing benefit and income support whilst studying.

8.3.5 It will also be essential to ensure that there is clarity over what is available in the foundation learning, that care leavers are able to access services to support the need for emotional literacy, social skills building, as this is vital in developing employability skills, and ensuring reengagement of those young people who are persistently NEET.

9 The likely impact of raising the participation age on strategies for addressing the needs of young people not in education, employment or training.

9.1 Career planning

9.1.1 For young people in and from care it will be essential that care and pathway planning reflects the raising of the participation age. Local authorities will have to look at extending personal education plans until 18. Through our From Care2Work programme we are recommending the introduction of career planning as part of the PEP process to inform care and pathway planning around ETE.

9.2 Link with education specialist

9.2.1 Designated teachers and virtual school heads (VSH) for young people in care have proved a successful model to improve outcomes. The evaluation of the VSH pilots showed that some VSH saw their responsibilities as ending at the end of GCSEs, their remit will have to be extended where this is the case. We require further development of the role of Virtual Schools and Virtual Colleges, ensuring that education support is provided, and that the school/college is linked to all training and service provision, academic and vocational.

9.3 The role of independent reviewing officers (IROs)

9.3.1 Under the Children and Young Persons Act 2008 new powers have been brought in for IROs to scrutinise care planning and particularly accommodation for care leavers. We believe that they should also ensure that all efforts have been made to actively engage and retain care leavers in education/training up to the age of 18 if NEET.

9.4 Out of authority placements

9.4.1 Many children in care are placed in other local authorities, but the authority placing them retains responsibility for their care. The authority where the young person resides should however ensure the young person participates and to support participation by providing appropriate provision. Responsible local authorities must consider the impact that a duty to participate to age 18 will have on the most vulnerable young people who are likely to be NEET who reside in other authority areas and ensure that they are adequately supported by care and leaving care services.

9.5 Recommendation

9.5.1 The DCSF should ensure that the remit of the initiatives introduced as part of the Care matters agenda, such as VSH and extended roles of IROs, reflects the raising of the participation age.

9.5.2 Responsible local authorities should put in place suitable protocols to ensure they are represented on attendance panels in other authorities when a young person placed out of area is to be discussed.

10 The opportunities and future prospects in education, training and employment for 16-18 year olds

10.1 The role of corporate parents

 

10.1.1 Services for looked after children and care leavers provide an opportunity to directly reach a group of specifically vulnerable 16-18 year olds. ETE must be embedded as part of the support that local authorities offer as corporate parents.

 

10.2 Recommendations

 

10.2.1 To promote successful outcomes, local authorities should in partnership with key agencies have a holistic understanding of the needs of the young people they 'look after' and of those in the transition from care. As such, young people should be provided with appropriate information advice and guidance from professionals and carers to ensure they are equipped with the skills and provided with the resources to achieve their full potential in the world of learning and future employment.

 

10.2.2 In line with the Every Child Matters outcomes 'Enjoy and achieve', 'Achieving Economic Wellbeing' and 'Making a Positive Contribution' it is essential that as corporate parents local authorities evidence high aspirations for young people in and from care. The Lead professional must ensure that the interests and future goals of young people are drawn upon from an early age, prioritised and embedded into the Personal Education Plan to inform the care planning process for all Children in Care.

 

December 2009



[1] Data on National Indicator 148 - The percentage of former care leavers aged 19 who were looked after on 1 April in their 17th year, who were in education, employment or training, by Local Authority http://www.dcsf.gov.uk/rsgateway/DB/SFR/s000878/SFR25-2009_National_Indicator_Version2.xls#'NI 148'!A1

[2] Data on Children aged 16 years and over who ceased to be looked after during the years ending 31 March by gender, age on ceasing, ethnic origin, final placement and qualifications http://www.dcsf.gov.uk/rsgateway/DB/SFR/s000878/SFR25-2009_PDF_Tables_v2.xls#'F1'!A1. However, it should be noted that the separate statistics on the educational outcomes for children looked after for 12 months or more showed higher educational attainment in that cohort. http://www.dcsf.gov.uk/rsgateway/DB/STR/d000894/Batch1_v3.xls