Looked after children

Questions to the Mayor of London – answered on 29th July 2019.

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Photo of Fiona Twycross Fiona Twycross Labour

A number of reports have recently served as a reminder of the challenges faced by looked after children including around advocacy and access to higher education. Could you provide an update on your support for children in care and care leavers?

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

Thank you, Chair. It is unacceptable that looked‑after children and care leavers can have poorer educational attainment and poorer employment prospects than their peers. While I do not have a statutory duty in this area, I am committed to taking action where I can to make a difference.

From City Hall we are supporting local authorities to provide for looked‑after children and care leavers. I have already waived the GLA precept for boroughs who exempt care leavers from paying council tax. We guarantee a place at the GLA apprenticeship scheme assisted assessment centre for all applicants who have been in care and meet minimum shortlisting requirements. We have identified care leavers as an at‑risk group in my European funded programmes. These are just some of the commitments I made when I signed up to the Department for Education’s care leave covenant in October 2018. Tomorrow we are bringing London local authorities together at City Hall to encourage more boroughs to sign up to the covenant. Together we can help more care leavers to live independently.

Through the European Social Fund (ESF) I signed the Care Leavers into Work project that supports young people into education, employment or training. I am commissioning my next ESF Programme, which highlights care leavers as a particularly vulnerable group that needs targeted support. I have also invested in the London Children in Care Council funded by Team London. Twenty 12 to 20-year-old council members received peer research training. Their research raises awareness of the key issues of education, budgeting and accommodation. These same young people are also peer advocates for looked‑after children right across London. Many of my Young Leaders summer project support looked after children. Central Greenwich Children’s Centre delivers peer‑to‑peer live skills training for and designed by care leavers.

I am proud that 16% of my peer outreach team have key experience. The team works throughout the year to engage young Londoners in City Hall’s work. Each year they co-ordinate an event as part of the National Care Leavers’ Week. We are committed to widening participation so that more Londoners can study on the higher education course best for them.

Photo of Fiona Twycross Fiona Twycross Labour

Your Care Leavers into Work Programme is funded, as you noted, by the ESF. Have you or your team assessed the impact of losing access to European funding on future programmes for this particularly vulnerable group?

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

Yes, we are concerned. The good news is the ESF support will not end until 2023, unless we stay in the EU in which case it carries on indefinitely. We are OK until then. The current Prime Minister [Theresa May MP] announced a UK Shared Prosperity Fund and the idea is that will be used to replace the ESF. We will have to wait and see if the new Prime Minister will continue with the UK Shared Prosperity Fund. The key ask we had for the Government was we should do no worse with the UK Shared Prosperity Fund than we do with the ESF.

Photo of Fiona Twycross Fiona Twycross Labour

The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Financial Education for Young People recently found that care leavers in schools are not provided with the skills necessary to manage their money in preparation for adult life, which care leavers start at 18. Given the lack of attention of Government on the financial crisis facing London schools, are you able to plug the gap to support care leavers to learn these essential financial skills?

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

Yes. This issue of financial literacy is important. You will be aware, of course, of the summit held in November last year [2018] that brought together education providers, banks, charities, technology companies and others to identify the challenges of improving financial skills to young people. We are doing some work in relation to this area you have talked about. It is important that we give better financial literacy to this group and we are keen to fill the gaps that currently exist to do just that.