Posted: 14 June 2016

Help make the Children and Social Work Bill work for children and young people

The most recent Queen’s speech announced that there will be a Children and Social Work Bill. This marks a significant opportunity to improve the support available to young people in care, and represents the biggest shake up of the system in a generation.

Through our direct work with young people we have a detailed understanding of the issues that care leavers and children in care across the country face on a daily basis. This provides us with the first-hand accounts to inform our calls for change within the bill.

As the House of Lords debates the bill today, we have the opportunity to make the bill better - find out how you can help.

What are we looking to include?

We are focusing our attention on three key areas that we believe have the potential to have a positive impact on the lives of the young people we support, and all care leavers:

1. Council tax debt

Over the last 18 months we have identified council tax debt as being a particular problem for care leavers as they make the transition into adulthood. They are often unaware of their responsibilities with ‘priority bills’, including council tax, and haven’t had sufficient financial education and support as they prepared to leave care, meaning that they are often left faced with escalating debts and enforcement actions, such as bailiffs being sent round. Cheshire East and North Somerset. Councils have already introduced localised support for care leavers with their council tax bills based on our research, and we estimate it would only cost government £11m a year to extend this nationally. As a result, we are calling on the Government to exempt care leavers from council tax until they turn 25, giving them time to adjust to adult life and get themselves on a sure and stable financial footing.

2. Out of area placements

Through our services in Greater Manchester, we have also worked to secure better protection and support for children in care who are placed out of area, and would like to see this extended to children in care across the country. The number of children placed out of area across the country has risen by over 3,200 children over the last four years.  While it can in some circumstances be in the best interests of a child to be placed away from their local area – for example, where a child has been trafficked and needs to be placed away from where they were exploited – in many cases children will be best served by placed being close to family, friends and support networks.

3. Extending corporate parenting principles to cover not only local government but also central government

Last, but not least, we recommend that corporate parenting principles should be extended to central government. As things currently stand, local government has a duty of care to the young people that they look after, and the Bill makes changes to the way this support is designed and provided. However, while the government has made real progress in ensuring all Departments take the impact of their decisions on care leavers into account, the Bill hasn’t extended the corporate parenting principles to central government. This is despite the fact that a number of different departments take decisions and actions that have a significant impact on the outcomes for care leavers, including where they live and the financial support they are entitled to.

What you can do to help

We are calling on you and all of our supporters to write to the lead members of the House of Lords from the three main political parties to ask for them to adopt our recommendation for a council tax exemption to be applied to all care leavers until the age of 25.

Take action today

By David Ayre - Policy team

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