Landmark package of support announced to help raise aspirations and outcomes for care leavers

Businesses including Amazon, Rolls-Royce and Barclays LifeSkills have pledged to support care leavers through a landmark government scheme launched to raise their career aspirations and improve their life skills.

More than 50 businesses, charities and every government department in England have signed up to the Care Leaver Covenant, which commits to provide work based opportunities to young people leaving the care system.

Children’s and Families Minister Nadhim Zahawi has set out an ambition for the scheme to create 10,000 work opportunities over the next ten years helping these young people gain vital skills and experiences as they enter the jobs market.

The Care Leaver Covenant is part of an unprecedented package of support for young people leaving care and smooth their transition into adulthood.

Too many care leavers do not achieve the same outcomes as their peers, with 40 per cent of care leavers aged 19 to 21 not in education, employment or training (NEET), compared to 13 per cent for this age group overall.

The Covenant will help care leavers navigate the work opportunities available and support them in fulfilling their ambitions. They will have access to work placements and internships with big businesses, government departments, museums, theatres, or Premier League football clubs, as well as training workshops or life-skills coaching.

The Covenant, run by Spectra First, is part of the government’s ambition to improve care leavers’ outcomes so they go on to lead happy and successful lives. The pledges on offer include work placements with organisations such as Liverpool FC Foundation, the Science Museum Group and Rolls-Royce to help them get their first step into a career.

In addition to the private and voluntary sector offers of support, the package of support for care leavers includes:

  • 12-month internships from every government department in Whitehall, including 100 12-month internships from January 2019;
  • Support from universities, such as bursaries and accommodation, with Cambridge, Leeds, and Manchester universities committing to supporting care leavers – data shows that only 6 per cent of care leavers aged 19 to 21 go on to higher education; and
  • Resources and tools from Barclays Life Skills to help care leavers to manage their money better, as they often lack the safety net of financial support from their families.

At the launch of the Covenant at Birmingham ICC today, the Children and Families Minister will urge more businesses to sign up and consider how to build on the offers of support, as well as challenging employers to offer dedicated mentors for care leavers taking up placements and internships.

The Covenant has been signed by 65 organisations, and dozens more have committed to sign, as well as attracting the support of advocates for young people in care including award-winning children’s author Dame Jacqueline Wilson – whose series of books about Tracy Beaker tell the story of a young girl living between the care system and a foster parent.

The Covenant builds on a breadth of government work already underway to improve the lives of care leavers, including schemes such as Staying Put, allowing care leavers to continue living with their foster families after the age of 18, and piloting Staying Close so young people leaving residential care can keep links with people they trust.

The government is already providing £5 million for three Social Impact Bonds to help care leavers into education, employment or training post-18 and £3.2 million for 47 councils to employ specialist personal advisers to help care leavers most at risk of rough sleeping in 2019/20.

The role of these personal advisers has been extended to support care leavers up to the age of 25, and councils now have a duty to publish their offer of support for care leavers online. Many councils have chosen to exempt care leavers from council tax to support them financially.