Convenant calls for support for care leavers

Young care leavers spoke at Falkirk Council earlier this year ahead of the covenant launch. Picture: Bill Miller
Young care leavers spoke at Falkirk Council earlier this year ahead of the covenant launch. Picture: Bill Miller
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A NEW campaign has been launched to provide increased support for young people who have been brought up in care.

The Scottish Care Leavers Covenant asks public and private organisations such as local authorities and charities to commit themselves to improving the lives and opportunities of young people leaving care as they enter the adult world.

For a long time, I felt the expectations for me were just a little bit lower

Conner Chalmers

It argues care leavers often struggle on the journey out of care and into independence due to a lack of support or guidance.

Many have issues with finding suitable accommodation and employment.

Backed by an alliance including Barnardo’s Scotland and the Centre for Youth and Criminal Justice (CYCJ), the covenant offers a set of guiding principles and actions required to support the implementation of the Aftercare section of the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014.

The covenant hopes all councils and support agencies will fully integrate its principles and actions into their corporate parenting plans.

Conner Chalmers, who recently left care, said: “Being in care sometimes means not getting to celebrate your achievements, not having someone to champion you or turn to when you’re struggling.

“For a long time, I felt like the expectations were just a little bit lower for me. I know that Scotland wants more for young people in care than the outcomes that we see.

“That’s why the launch of this covenant is so important. It gives people delivering care the chance to think about what it means to be a parent. It gives other members of civic society the chance to take an interest in young people in care and to champion us.”

Simone Smith, a fellow care leaver, said: “I think every policy-maker should be aware of care leavers and how their policies affect them in good or bad ways. For me right now it would be policies about housing and accommodation as I have my own tenancy.

“I wasn’t entitled to housing benefits so I had to pay my own rent and I was freaking out as there was no way I could afford that along with my daughter’s childcare bills and basic living expenses. I almost dropped out of further education as I couldn’t afford it and felt the world was against me.

“I wish that the recommendation that alternative accommodation be put in place was there when I left care because I knew my accommodation wasn’t suitable for me and my daughter. When we lived in a homeless unit, for example, to go anywhere we had to go down really dark alleyways that had no lighting and the winter months were particularly bad; even delivery drivers wouldn’t walk down them.”

Jennifer Davidson, of the Centre for Excellence for Looked After Children in Scotland (CELCIS) said: “The journey into adulthood can be a bumpy one for many young people. Care leavers in particular often find this journey to be an isolating and difficult struggle, often because of a serious lack of support and care in the process. The leap we ask care experienced young people to take from care to independence is just too sudden and too great. When we don’t adequately support these young people through this stage of life, they experience problems that can lead to an entrenched disadvantage compared to their peers.

This is why this Covenant is needed - to change our collective thinking and practice to meet these young people’s unique needs and ensure their transitions are supported well.”