Coming Together to Support Care Leavers

Today’s guest blog comes from Cabinet Member for Women, Children and Families, Helen Godwin.

helen gtIt was great to bring three reports to cabinet last week, each of them focussing on our role as corporate parents and how we better support children in care and care leavers.

During Bristol City Council’s last OFSTED report in 2014, serious concerns were raised about the outcomes for care leavers in the city. Since then, the council has been working hard to improve our Care Leaver Offer to ensure that young people have a good chance to live independently, access employment or training and to contribute to the city.

However, the story is not as positive as we would like. Despite some amazing success stories in Bristol – we have a number of care leavers in higher education and incredible care leaver apprentices making a difference in the council and for the city – there are some hard to digest statistics around leaving care. Care leavers are over represented in the criminal justice system and in mental health services, too many homeless young people grew up in care and substance abuse is prevalent.

For me the most shocking fact is the 1 in 6 care leavers will not live to the age of 30.

In 2018. In the UK.

It is heart-breaking and unacceptable.

Last week I brought two reports to Cabinet which will make a tangible difference to care leavers in Bristol. Having worked closely with Cllr Craig Cheney, we have announced that from 1 April 2018 all care leavers up to the age of 25 in Bristol will be exempt from Council Tax. This follows on from the Children’s Society ‘Wolf at the Door’ report which demonstrates that council tax debt can be a particularly frightening experience for care leavers. What can start out for many care leavers as falling slightly behind can very quickly escalate to a court summons and enforcement action being taken. We want to protect and support our care leavers as an authority, and help them towards independence and hope that this measure will allow us to do that.

We were also thrilled to announce that Bristol City Council, along with 1625 Independent People, are leading on the development of a Social Impact Bond that will enable us to work with care leavers to ensure that they are able to access education, employment and training. The award, from the Department for Education, is for c£1.7million and will focus on young people who need the most support. To be part of such an innovative project is great news for the city, and to be able to align this work with our key mayoral pledges around work experience and apprenticeships for all young people is especially exciting.

To make the impact we want to see on outcomes for care leavers will take a lot more work and focus, and will require input and partnership from across the city. We want to explain and promote the idea of corporate parenting beyond the council.

If you would like to find out how you can get involved in supporting some of the city’s most vulnerable young people please feel free to contact me directly – cllr.helen.godwin@bristol.gov.uk

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