A Good Care Leaver Offer from older Care Experienced Perspective
published on 21 September 2021
We asked a group of older Care Experienced people to discuss the Care Leaver Local Offer Website and the things we have asked councils so far and with hindsight what is important to Care Leavers. We asked Sean Geoghegan to convene a group. Here is what they said.
Care Leaver’s Offers
I am an older care experienced person. I am also by definition a Care Leaver. The vast majority of us in our forties, fifties and sixties can recall a time when the offer from our Local Authority was little or nothing. Many of us left care at sixteen and made our own way; some onto the streets or into the Services, others into private rental if we were lucky who then made their own way on. How did we do it ? I wonder myself sometimes. “Fear of failure has driven me” is how a CEP Grand parent (Jacquie) described her life after care. “The fear of letting down or losing my kids..” if she stopped working for a moment she said :who would take care of my family?”
The general feeling among the 35 + year age group is that we would have been very happy to get the kind of support we see today. Uppermost in all our thoughts was for the need to issue proof of identity. Identification (passport etc) to allow for banking and other services.
“Proof of identity is a priority as it is required for so many things.” Amanda also pointed out that she would have liked an additional question about care leavers having a bank account – “I think you should add this”.
Housing was seen as an utter priority. “Decent affordable housing is the first priority in my opinion. The problem for many care leavers is that wages/salaries often don’t cover the costs, and this traps them in the benefits system. Leaving care grants should be sufficient to set up home with essentials. And “I think the overall issue here is that care leavers should have access to supported accommodation that provides this for as long as they need/want it.”
And it was felt that if the Council were unable to pay for decorating then packs with basic paint and equipment was thought to be of use. Money is key and hep around that is vital. Council tax exemption being singled out. Then work. Anything than can assist in job seeking or provision or support in that endeavour. Travel, clothing etc.
Accessibility of the offer was seen as key as was divulging the rights of the child which is paramount. According to one of our older CEP’s (Richard). “I like the idea of the inclusion of their rights under the 1989 Children’s act. They should be actively sending CEP this information regularly anyway. Not everyone has access to the web/email.”
Clearly all the Local Authority offers need to have been created with and by young people themselves. The Care Experienced community need to be the ones developing this support structure. And there is real concern among us that Participation teams (Care Councils and After Care forums) are not really fit for purpose. That the involvement of young people “in the decisions that affects their lives” is not only a legal prerogative but that in the process that we can see pathways set for the future. A future that will require lots of resilience and pro-activity that can never be legislated for.
Richard again; “As corporate parents they should be doing most if not all of those things listed. For an unlimited timeframe as well. Some CEP will need support for life. Especially with the most basics, like providing homes for them.”
There is a genuine concern from us older CEP’s that our young people at some point in this journey “are gonna have the rug pulled out from under them” (Jacquie). That a lack of work around developing social capital is going to leave them isolated and unable to thrive. That the drive towards ‘independence’ actually creates huge expectations and demands on the young. As we well know, life ahead is not a breeze. Being able to get back up off your feet is vital. Mentorship from the older community is one way to combat this.
By the way, the fact that Terry Galloway was able to uncover what we see as the continual threat that young people experience towards losing their newborn babies is a startling revelation. An issue that we thought was long gone as a policy and it appals us all.
There is incredible resilience within those of us who have ‘survived’ the leaving care transition or as they would have us believe - ‘assimilated’ into the wider community. But there are also those who have suffered and who live in trauma - daily. The abuse they experienced within Local Authority care has made them unwilling to look for help. So called Support Workers with no real agency. Unable to affect Housing or Health Officers in their own Councils. Services that are by and large not trauma informed. Councils that do not understand their own legacy in our abuse.
The fact is that the DfE have issued guidance around support for the post 25 care experienced. As well as the emphasis on the Local Authority to act as a ‘good parent’ the Care leavers’ charter from the Department for Education refers to the importance of being a ‘Lifelong Champion’.
To be a lifelong champion:
We will do our best to help you break down barriers encountered when dealing with other agencies. We will work together with the services you need, including housing, benefits, colleges and universities, employment providers and health services to help you establish yourself as an independent individual. We will treat you with courtesy and humanity whatever your age when you return to us for advice or support. We will help you to be the driver of your life and not the passenger. We will point you in a positive direction and journey alongside you at your pace. We will trust and respect you. We will not forget about you. We will remain your supporters in whatever way we can, even when our formal relationship with you has ended.
We would rather have a Lifelong Champion support us than a Corporate parent that tells you at a certain age to sod off (quote by me).
After all, a child is still welcome in the home of most parents regardless of their age. As a parent myself, I feel that ‘good parenting’ never stops. Never. Ever. That many children especially from middle class families will either have returned to the nest and some will never have left it well into their thirties. They will have also become to regular family visits that are never available to us from care backgrounds.
Thankfully there is a far higher awareness of the problems faced by the Care Leaver these days. A huge amount of support that includes Advisors with pathways, employment and education possibilities. There is positive discrimination and fast tracking, backed by governmental legislation and guidance from numerous Agencies and Charities. The Care Covenant is an Industry wide commitment for additional levels of support for our Care Leavers.
But where is the support for those who grew up when NO support was available. Who struggled through decades, some of whom carried severe trauma with them. Our older community should be seen as our very own veterans and war heroes. As the UNICEF global Advocate Benjamin Perks has so eloquently put it. Members of the Care Experienced prior to the 1989 Children’s Act were victims of the greatest human rights violation.
There was a failure of corporate parenting on an industrial scale for us as children; from those who should have cared for us and kept us safe. Systemic failings in the procedures and processes for child care and child protection which led to large-scale abuse and neglect of children in almost all of our children’s homes and placements between 1950 and 1995 (when the bulk were closed down). Alongside the sexual abuse of boys and girls it also includes institutional brutality and neglect, inhumane punishments, racism, dehumanising attitudes, separation of siblings, witnessing abuse of others. The onus on the Local Authority to parent by developing their potential and giving this community renewed chances for a brighter future never, ever happened.
We feel that the Care experienced community needs to be considered as a whole. In an holistic approach that reduces the intense use of resources that congeal around ‘transition’ and that all young Care Leavers are told that they don’t have to break a sweat towards ‘independence’ but that they will always have someone or somewhere that they can go to and that they already have a community they belong to.