Cheshire East Council is one of nine local authorities in England to sign up to a new project aiming to improve the lives of vulnerable young people leaving care.
The ‘New Belongings’ project – run by the Care Leavers’ Foundation and funded by the Department for Education (DfE) – aims to create the gold standard in supporting care leavers, which can then be replicated in other areas.
Cheshire East will work alongside small expert teams, other service providers and the local community to improve support for care leavers, who themselves will be closely involved.
The Care Leavers’ Foundation believes it important to support care leavers, who are at risk of unemployment, poverty, homelessness, mental health issues and drug and alcohol misuse.
Janet Rich, a trustee of the Care Leavers’ Foundation said: “Care leavers have already had a difficult start in life and independence at an early age can be incredibly difficult. If we are serious about these vulnerable individuals getting the start in life they deserve, we need to see a real shift in terms of support.
“This project will work intensively with a small number of local authorities, to set the bar high on how we help care leavers become independent, successful adults. I am incredibly pleased that these nine local authorities are working with us to make a long-term difference in the lives of care leavers in England.”
Councillor Rachel Bailey, Cabinet member responsible for children and family services at Cheshire East Council, said: “I enjoy meeting up with our care leavers, I find them to be remarkable people. I am committed to doing all I can to help any young person during what can be a very challenging time.
“This Council has further outlined its commitment to supporting care leavers by signing up to this programme, which will be key to improving the lives of this vulnerable group of people.
“They need services which are integrated, easy to access, embedded within local communities, and which treat them with respect.”
Edward Timpson, Minister for Children and Families and MP for Crewe and Nantwich, said: “I regularly meet with a group of care leavers and they have helped me learn a great deal about the real difficulties that care leavers face as they make their way in the adult world.
“Some of these difficulties are rooted in early traumatic events before they entered care, others arise from the unintended consequences of policies that don’t join up, or from the inconsistent application of policies across the country.
“What has been most striking about this group is that they don’t come to me to complain; they come to share their experiences and propose solutions. They were behind the concept of the ‘New Belongings’ project, which we are delighted to fund.
“Critical to the delivery of the project’s outcomes will be the central role care leavers play in delivering the project in the participating authorities.”
The Care Leavers’ Foundation is now looking for more local authorities to get on board with the project, those who are willing to embrace change and help share good practice.
Care leavers face multiple challenges. Many have had difficult childhood and teenage years, then are expected to live independently without the emotional and financial support that most young people are lucky enough to get from their families. Most young people leave care while they are aged 18 or under – around 10 years younger than most people leave home in the UK.
A lot of care leavers, despite their early move into independence, are resilient and determined. They can overcome their difficult start and begin to build much more solid foundations for their adult lives – particularly as they come towards their mid or late twenties.
But too many struggle. Care leavers can find it difficult to get into adequate housing, higher education and jobs. Many are permanently estranged from families and have experienced frequent changes of school and neighborhood, lacking supportive local networks of friends, family and neighbours.
The Care Leavers’ Foundation is an independent charity which supports young adult care leavers. It makes small grants to care leavers aged 18-29 who are in crisis, or who want to take control of their lives and develop new skills. It provides real and practical support when often it is needed most.