A new cross-government initiative has been announced by the Department for Education, offering £19 million of support to young people leaving the care system.
The funding includes £3 million to help care leavers go into further education by extending the Pupil Premium Plus to all 16-18 year old care leavers, supporting their transition into further education, along with supporting ambitious decisions in their choice of qualifications and to make sure that there is a greater chance that they will complete their chosen course.
£6 million of funding will support care leavers to live independently and £10 million to create stable homes.
Williamson has also committed to delivering 1,000 internships for care leavers over the next two years to help secure long term, quality jobs, including expanding the existing Civil Service Internship Scheme, which has offered permanent jobs to 220 care leavers across Whitehall, along with jobs within other public sector bodies, such as the NHS, Ministry of Defence civilian roles, police and fire service.
Discussing the initiative, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said: “Young people leaving care face enormous barriers in their lives as they move towards independence, from not having a trusted person in their life to rely on, to not having a safe home to return to at the end of the day.
“Housing, healthcare and education are three of the biggest obstacles they have to overcome. We all have a responsibility to do better for them – so I’m bringing together colleagues from across government to join me in transforming the support we offer care leavers in all of these key areas to make the biggest difference in their lives.
“This starts immediately, because we must raise the bar for these young people, to give them greater stability and a strong sense of purpose in adulthood.”
Chaired by Williamson and Minister for the Cabinet Office, Oliver Dowden, the new Care Leaver Covenant Board will comprise of Secretaries of State from across relevant government departments and will meet three times a year to address the key barriers facing young care leavers as they adjust to independent life as adults: finding a suitable, safe place to live, supporting them to remain in education, employment or training, and helping them access appropriate healthcare. It will also look at how to support councils to employ adolescent mental health workers in every leaving care team in the country.
Almost 40 percent of 19-21 year old care leavers are classed as ‘not in education, employment or training’ (NEET) compared with 13 percent of this age group overall.
The new internships, each being a one-year paid offer, are designed to lead to full-time job offers, and follows an expansion of the civil service internship scheme for care leavers from 2021, which is currently offering 220 internships across 25 departments in the next year.