I am committed to doing all I can to support our young people leaving care and ensure that turning 18 years old isn’t the ‘cliff edge’ it can be seen as.
Since 2014, local authorities have been under a duty to provide financial support to enable young people in foster care to remain living with their former foster family to age 21 in a Staying Put arrangement. The department is providing funding of over £33 million in the 2020/21 financial year to support implementation, an increase of approximately £10 million (40%) on the 2019/20 financial year.
Since 2018, we have funded 8 Staying Close pilots (£5.8 million over two years) to test an enhanced offer of support, with accommodation and well-being, for young people leaving residential care. In the 2020/21 financial year we are continuing the pilots and have announced our intention to begin national roll-out.
During National Care Leavers’ Week in October 2020, my hon. Friend, the Minister of State for Universities, and I contributed to sector-led events, including the ‘Empathy Summit’ staged by Spectra and the Care Leaver Covenant. We now have 155 organisations signed up to the Care Leaver Covenant, businesses, charities, public bodies, and 85 in the process of developing their offer of practical help. I urge others to follow suit and identify what opportunities they can offer to care leavers.
Policies across government impact on care leavers’ lives, such as housing, employment and health. That is why my right hon. Friend, the Secretary of State for Education, has set up a cross-government ministerial care leavers board, to focus on issues facing care leavers.
In summer this year, I launched the latest intake to the Civil Service care leaver internship scheme, which this year has received over 700 applicants to work in a range of paid roles across government. We are now working, with the cross-government ministerial care leavers’ board, to identify similar opportunities in other large public sector employers, such as the NHS, police and the fire service.
Since 2018/19, as part the government’s rough sleeping strategy, we have provided nearly £6 million funding to 47 local authorities with the highest number of care leavers at risk of homelessness/rough sleeping. The funding allows them to employ specialist Personal Advisers to provide intensive support to small caseloads of care leavers most at risk.
During National Care Leavers Week 2020, this department and the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government published joint guidance to local authorities on establishing positive accommodation pathways for care leavers, including developing joint protocols between local authorities Children’s and Housing Services.