Johnny Mercer named cross-government lead for care leavers
Wednesday, July 12, 2023
Minister for veterans’ affairs Johnny Mercer has been named as cross-government lead for care leavers.
Mercer, who is MP for Plymouth Moor Hill, will work alongside Claire Coutinho, minister for children, families and wellbeing, to “to secure improved care leaver outcomes” based on recommendations by the Independent Review of Children’s Social Care in England taken forward by government.
Announcing his role at a meeting of the cross-government care leavers board, Mercer, said: “I know the challenges that children in care can experience throughout their lives, which is why I’m delighted to be taking on the role of cross-government care leaver lead, championing the interests of care leavers from my unique position at the heart of government, as I have, and continue to do, for veterans across the country.”
Mercer will work with external stakeholders in the public, private and third sectors to improve outcomes for care leavers and present updates on his work to the care leavers ministerial board.
Key recommendations on leaving care, made in the Care Review and taken forward by government, include increasing funding for the Staying Put programme for young people in foster care and increasing the care leavers allowance and apprenticeship bursaries.
Mercer will also work closely with employers – including JLP, Sky, Amazon and the NHS – who are providing opportunities to care leavers through the care leaver covenant, according to the Department for Education.
Responding to his appointment, Lynn Perry, chief executive of Barnardo’s, wrote on Twitter: “I’m really pleased to see a cross-governmental lead role for care leavers - this is exactly the sort of focused intent we have long been asking for to address the differential opportunities and outcomes for children who are care experienced. I hope this supports changes at pace.”
I’m really pleased to see a cross governmental lead role for care leavers - this is exactly the sort of focussed intent we have long been asking for to address the differential opportunities and outcomes for children who are care experienced. I hope this supports changes at pace. https://t.co/zXb35XCmMR— Lynn Perry MBE (@lynnanneperry) July 12, 2023
Meanwhile, children’s rights lawyers in Wales are urging the country’s government to reconsider its decision not to take forward a recommendation on making care experience a protected characteristic in law in its response to the Welsh Care Review.
While the Welsh government laid out plans to extend the threshold for statutory support provided to all care leavers from 21 to 25 in its response to the review, published in May, it rejected calls around the creation of a protected characteristic.
Elisa Jenkins, an education and children's rights solicitor at Cardiff law firm Simpson Millar, who is also care experienced, said: “The Welsh Government states that it is committed to eradicating the stigma facing those who are care experienced, however, at present there is no legal protection preventing care-experienced individuals from being discriminated against.”
BREAKING NEWS: Liberal Democrats at Richmond pass Protected Characteristics for Care Experienced People.— Terry Galloway (@TerryGalloway) July 11, 2023
"There are concerns in the sector that self declaration of care experienced could include stigma"
I'll tell you what increases stigma! @juliacambridge1 Thank you… pic.twitter.com/tZndxkYBpE
The UK government also rejected a similar recommendation in the English Care Review, however, more than 40 councils have passed a motion pledging to recognise care experience as a protected characteristic when making policy.
The most recent councils to pass the motion are Richmond, in south west London, and Broxtowe in Nottinghamshire.