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Cambridgeshire care leavers need support a parent would offer



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Researchers say young people leaving care need the support a parent would offer their own child in order to ‘equalise the playing field’.

A number of recommendations were made to Cambridgeshire County Council on what it could do to offer that support.

These include acting as a rent guarantor, working to remove homelessness intentionality, creating more job opportunities at the county council, providing more help to access mental health support, and to lobby at a national level for increased mental health support for young people leaving care.

Care leavers need support a parent would offer. Photo: Stock image.
Care leavers need support a parent would offer. Photo: Stock image.

Research was carried out by postgraduate research students through the Cambridge University Science and Policy Exchange (CUSPE) programme into what could be done to improve the transition for young people leaving care into an independent adult.

The researcher’s report was presented to councillors at a Children and Young People Committee meeting yesterday (Tuesday, May 17).

The research originally began in April 2020, but the meeting was told there were delays in bringing it to the committee.

In the report, the researchers said: “One of the key duties of a local authority is to support its young people with care experience until the age of 25.

“The transition from care into independence can be a time of great upheaval for young people.

“Young people must quickly adapt to independent living and greater responsibility at a time when support is reduced.

“Many young people leaving care struggle to adapt to their new circumstances.

“Young people with care experience have worse employment, education, and health outcomes than the general population. This does not need to be the case.

“Young people with care experience are often victims of circumstance but have the potential to lead successful adult lives.”

The researchers said they had taken a “solution oriented approach” looking to outline specific policies that could address barriers being faced by young people leaving care.

They added that they were also looking at ways the county council could support young people leaving care, in the way parents would offer support to their own children.

The recommendations came under three main headings, relating to accommodation, finances, and mental health.

The researchers told councillors that issues around accommodation were particularly important in Cambridgeshire due to high housing costs.

A council officer said the county council has made changes since the research was conducted.

They explained that the county council does act as a rent guarantor in many cases, and that it has now introduced a council tax relief scheme for eligible young people leaving care aged between 19 and 21.

Councillor Lucy Nethsingha said it was also important to make sure there is support for all young people who are struggling with the transition into adulthood and that young people leaving care are guided into that ‘adult support network’.

By doing this, Cllr Nethsingha said, it would avoid a “cliff edge” cut off in support for young people leaving care.

She said: “By the time they get to be 23, 24, 25, we need to be making sure they are supported in the way in which they are going to be supported further on in life and making sure there is a gentle transition.

“You can draw the cliff edge anywhere you like, but if you are making very specific arrangements for looked after children, that are not going to be present for everybody else, then you will get a cliff edge somewhere.

“So it’s about that transition and it’s about making sure that we have got the right things in place not just for those young people but for any young people

The researchers said they were supportive of helping young people more broadly, but asked that councillors keep in mind the specific barriers young people leaving care face and where specific support could be needed to “equalise the playing field”.

The committee also unanimously agreed that the chair of the committee, Councillor Bryony Goodliffe, should advocate at a national level for increased mental health support for young people leaving care.



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