Care leavers' charter seeks to smash stereotypes

By Gabriella Jozwiak

| 24 October 2012

Care leavers want support workers to help them develop their personal identities and give them more respect, according to a new charter.

Care leavers hope the charter will lead them to be treated with more dignity. Image: Malcolm Case-Green

The seven-point document, produced by the Department for Education and Care Leavers' Foundation, is intended to act as a guide for local authorities and practitioners working with care leavers.

The charter was created by care leavers over a two-year period and will be officially launched next Monday by children's minister Edward Timpson to mark National Care Leavers’ Week.

“The key purpose for the charter is to try to eliminate the stereotypes behind care leavers,” said Scott King, 23, a care leaver who was part of the team that consulted young people and professionals on the charter.

“Aspirations for care leavers are so low, but expectations are so high. This charter is about the hearts and minds of the care leavers themselves and thinking about them as individuals, so they are treated with dignity,” he said.

King has been a member of the ministerial care leaver advisory group since 2010. He was moved to 36 different placements in his teenage years. When he decided to return to education last year, the local authority denied him help with his rent because he was too old.

“When care leavers make a mistake or don’t do things on time, you have to look at the reasons behind that,” said King.

“Children in care don’t follow developmental norms because they have so much trauma to deal with – they’re always playing catch-up and making personal decisions later on in life. But social services tell them it’s too late and blame them.”

Janet Rich, trustee of the Care Leavers' Foundation, said she hopes government will promote the charter to local authorities and that all practitioners working with care leavers will take up its seven points.

“The message within the charter from the young people is that any professionals – directors of children’s services, university admissions tutors or frontline workers – all those adults are massively influential. We are all part of the corporate parenting machine,” she said.

“The theme that runs through the seven values in the charter is about relationships and respect. Even when decisions might not be the ones the young person wants, there are ways of handing out those decisions that can be respectful and thoughtful.”

Meanwhile, care leavers have received a financial boost with the announcement of a new partnership between The Prince’s Trust and the Big Lottery Fund, worth £1.8m in funding.

Around 1,000 young care leavers will receive help from the Prince’s Trust as a result of the investment over a period of five years.

The funding will also enable the National Children’s Bureau to conduct research into the best ways to support care leavers into work alongside 12 partner organisations, including Prospects, New Horizon and Foundation UK.

"Too many young people are leaving care with no qualifications and no hope for the future,” said Martina Milburn, chief executive of The Prince's Trust.  

“We know there are many organisations working hard to tackle this issue – and we want to work closely with them to investigate the best method of support for this vulnerable group."

Peter Wanless, chief executive of the Big Lottery Fund, added: “This project will establish an effective model that can be adopted by care professionals to help young care leavers improve their prospects and enjoy a brighter future.”

National Care Leavers’ Week runs from 24 to 30 October 2012.

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