Relationships matter more than age – ending the care ‘cliff edge’

Two weeks ago, the review launched a Call for Ideas.  This is open to anyone who wants to share an idea with the review about how to change children’s social care for the better.

In a guest blog below, Corporate Director of Children and Young People’s Service in North Yorkshire Stuart Carlton and his colleague Mel Hutchinson share details of a new approach the council have introduced called ‘Always Here’ – a simple offer to be there for care leavers who want to stay in touch regardless of age.

If this sparks an idea which you would like to share with the review, you can take part in our call for ideas here

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Care leavers have told us for many years that they worry about reaching the age where support will end, creating a “cliff edge’ which can lead to some young people feeling anxious.

The Children (Leaving Care) Act 2000  places duties on local authorities to  provide services to care leavers until they are 25 (this was increased in the children and social work act 2017 from 21 unless in higher education). Between the ages of 21-25 young people can decide whether or not they want a service and local authorities can assess whether the young person has an unmet need which providing a service might meet.

We know that for many young people the reality is that relationships and connectivity lasts for longer than, either their 21st or 25th birthday.  In North Yorkshire, our experience is that young adults keep their links with those who they have worked with and often get in touch to update them on what is happening in their lives. For example, to share that they have been successful in getting a job, achieving and wanting to celebrate their exam results, that they are getting married, that they have had a child, that they would like their worker to attend a christening etc.  

Some young adults link in because they just need a listening ear and a bit of support to help them with a difficult situation or scenario. The workers and managers are always more than happy to have this contact, and see it as a very important part of their existing relationship, wanting to keep in touch when it is right for young adults.

It is from this position that North Yorkshire’s Leaving Care Service wanted to go one-step further by making the offer open and clear to all our young people, as it is absolutely the right thing to do. We asked ourselves – did we need or should we simply maintain our duties as outlined by the Children and Leaving Care Act? 

North Yorkshire’s practice model is all about ensuring children, young people and their families have a positive experience when working with us and that relationships are fundamental within this.  In North Yorkshire, we would want to model how we would support our own children using the test of ‘is it good enough for my child’. Most parents are always there for their children and it is right that we replicate this as part of our corporate parenting duties.

North Yorkshire County Council Care Leaving Service launched our ‘Always Here’ offer to care leavers at this year’s Care Leaver Conference. We work relentlessly during care and leading up to living independently to build secure long term family networks but we also recognise the importance of keeping in touch and at times having support that provides an additional safety net. For example, where required we will provide young parents with resources to support their parenting role i.e. sleeptight programme, ditch the dummy classes, incredible years etc. We are therefore continuing to offer young adults advice, guidance and where appropriate support whenever they may need it.

This offer doesn’t require additional resources, it just needs local authorities to maximise the benefits already contained within their collective services but filtered through those who have the closest relationships. The team are proud that they are the first Leaving Care Service in the Country to formalise, extend the offer, and confirm to all that relationships matter more than age (if someone else beat us to it, please do let us know!).  In North Yorkshire, we do and will go the extra mile for our young people 

The hope is that other Local Authorities will follow in our practice and end the care cliff for their young people.

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