'We have already achieved better outcomes for some of our young people, and we think this could save us around £4.2m a year.' Martin Gray, Director of Children's Services at Stockton Council.
The stark reality for care leavers is that the odds are stacked against them. Almost one third (31%) of 18-year old care leavers are not in education, employment or training, compared to 13% of the general population. Care leavers are more likely to become youth offenders or experience homelessness. According to the National Audit Office, 25% of homeless people, and almost half of young men under 21 in the criminal justice system, have spent time in care – despite representing less than 1% of the overall population.
This is a complex landscape where the opportunities to support care-leavers are distributed across different care organisations, education providers, community groups and more. While there is no question that care-leavers should be given the best chance of a happy and fulfilling life, and while many initiatives are aiming to do exactly this, current systems and structures sometimes do not deliver the best outcome as they either define problems too narrowly (limiting the number of levers or solutions), or they cast the net so widely that the problem seems impossible to resolve.
At IMPOWER, we navigate through such complexities, reframing the problem to deliver real, sustainable and better outcomes. For young people in care, for example, while formal education is critical, so are life skills and emotional development. They need to learn how to eat healthily, cook, do their own laundry, learn how to make and keep appointments, look after their health (physical, mental and sexual), understand how to manage a budget, learn how to prepare for job interviews and so much more.
If we are to create a system that equips children in care to fulfil their potential and develop necessary life skills, we need to understand what their needs are upon entering the system, and how the system can best respond to those needs. Our Valuing Care programme helps Children’s Services Departments to commission provision for looked after children. Through an improved understanding and detailed evidence base of children’s needs, councils can ensure that placements address those needs (both practical and emotional), deliver improved and more consistent outcomes, equip children to be more resilient and prepared for future independence, and with a better understanding of cost.
We all have a responsibility to ensure that every penny of the £4 billion spent on children in care each year makes a positive difference and equips them with the skills they will need later in life.
To learn more, visit our Valuing Care page or contact us.