Council charter for care leavers aims to address inconsistencies in support

By Joe Lepper

| 24 August 2012

A care leavers' charter will launch later this year in a bid to improve the support councils provide as corporate parents.

Councils are asked to provide meaningful support to care leavers up until they are 25. Image: Malcolm Case-Green

The Department for Education (DfE) and the Care Leavers' Foundation have launched a consultation around the proposed charter, which they hope to make available to councils during National Care Leavers Week (24 to 31 Oct).

Janet Rich, a trustee at the Care Leavers' Foundation, said care leaving services are patchy around the country, and the charter could raise standards among the worst performing councils.

She said: “There are some councils that have very high standards and will always do their best no matter what their circumstances, there are the bulk of councils that are striving to do better and there is a third group where the culture is so rotten that it is very difficult to improve the services they offer.”

She hopes senior council directors will sign up to the charter but acknowledges that they will not be compelled to do so.

She added: “Councils already have local pledges to care leavers which in some cases are not being followed. What care leavers do not want is another set of pledges that are not acted on.”

The charter is set to be around a page long and based on six principles of support: identity and aspiration; your views and decisions about you; support when you need it; information; moving on and working together.

Specific recommendations for councils include improving access to complaints procedures and independent advice and ensuring councils offer meaningful long-term support for care leavers up until they are 25.

Another focus is to ensure care leavers do not have to fight to get their legal entitlement of support. Such support should be offered freely and be well promoted, according to a Care Leavers' Foundation briefing paper issued this month on the proposed charter.

Martin Hazelhurst, national manager of Catch 22’s National Care Advisory Service, which is also involved in drafting the charter, added: “There are still significant inconsistencies in how young people leaving care are treated, and services provided do not always meet the standards we would hope for. We hope the introduction of this charter will be an important step in the right direction.”

A draft charter will be produced by 17 September, signed off by the DfE by 15 October and officially launched on 24 October.

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