The quality of support provided for care leavers is assessed under Ofsted’s framework for the inspection of local authority children’s services. In its annual report (2017-18) Ofsted reported that care leaver services were improving, saying “We have continued to explore the experience of care leavers in different local authorities and have been pleased to find an increasing number of local authorities providing high-quality services for them”. The latest Ofsted report for Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council rated its leaving care service as ‘outstanding’. A copy of the report is available at: https://files.api.ofsted.gov.uk/v1/file/2761258.
Department for Education has appointed Mark Riddell MBE as the national improvement adviser for care leavers. Mark was previously the manager of Trafford leaving care service, which was the first to be judged ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted. Mark has worked with over 40 local authorities to help them implement new duties introduced in 2018, which require local authorities to publish their ‘local offer’ for care leavers; and offer support from a Personal Adviser to all care leavers to age 25 (previously support ended at age 21 for most care leavers). Mark has published an annual report highlighting best practice in leaving care services, a copy of which is available via the following link: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/national-implementation-adviser-for-care-leavers-first-year-report.
However, care leavers’ outcomes remain significantly worse than their peers in the general population and the government is determined to further improve the support care leavers receive as they make the challenging transition from care to independence. In addition to the new duties on local authorities mentioned above, government has introduced a range of measures to improve care leavers’ outcomes, including:
- Launching 3 care leaver social impact bonds, which will use ‘payment by results’ contracts to support care leavers to engage in education, employment or training;
- Establishing 8 ‘Staying Close’ pilots, which are testing an enhanced support offer for young people leaving residential care;
- Providing additional funding for 47 local authorities, to enable them to work intensively with small caseloads of care leavers at highest risk of homelessness – as part of the cross-government rough sleeping strategy;
- Introducing a £1,000 bursary for care leavers starting an apprenticeship (local authorities are already required to provide a £2,000 bursary for care leavers who go to university; and care leavers are a priority group for receipt of a 16-19 bursary if they are in further education).
- Launching the care leaver covenant, which provides a way for organisations from the public, private and voluntary sectors to show their commitment to care leavers, through providing concrete offers of support;
- Launching the next recruitment round for the Civil Service care leaver internship scheme, which provides 12-month paid internships for care leavers across government. For this intake we are hoping to place 100 care leavers in government departments across the country;
- Publishing guidance to universities on how they can improve the support they offer to care leavers.