In their own words: Care Experienced Young People ask senior policy and decision makers for change.
In Their Own Words is an event organised and run by care experienced individuals, highlighting the importance of various topics and identifying what would make a difference to them at a local and national level. The event was aimed at senior policy and decision makers across government, local authorities and the third sector including MPs, lead members, directors of children’s services, policy leads and more.
As online events go, it was incredible, with over 200 decision and policy makers tuning in to hear from care experienced individuals directly, in addition to the 100 people in the room. Each speaker spoke passionately, representing the views of many other care leavers from across the country, with a clear understanding of how change can be implemented on a local and national level to better support care leavers.
The event focused on how a number of initiatives have impacted care experienced young people already, and how they could impact in the future. These initiatives included:
- cost of living,
- care leaver hubs,
- unaccompanied asylum seeking children (UASC) triangles,
- free transportation, and
- care experience as a protected characteristic.
Below, we have outlined some of the key local and national asks that these speakers raised.
1. Cost of living
As we know, the cost of living has impacted many people over the last few years and continues to affect care leavers today. Victoria, our YPBMF steering group representative, took the stage to talk about the NLCBF Survival Is Not Easy report, that captured the views of 461 care experienced individuals on the impact of the cost of living crisis. The report painted a stark picture of how this has impacted young people’s mental health, relationships and financial situations.
To help with cost of living at a local level, the Young People’s Benchmarking Forum asked decision and policy makers to:
- keep in contact and maintain relationships,
- provide debt support and financial skills,
- create care leaver hubs,
- provide access to advice,
- provide crisis support, and
- ring fence finances from the household support fund.
To help with cost of living at a national level, the Young People’s Benchmarking Forum asked decision and policy makers to:
- prioritise financial wellbeing as critical to care experienced individuals and their futures, including mental health support,
- encourage local authorities to ring fence part of the allocated household support fund for care experienced individuals, and
- make all care leavers eligible for the over 25’s rate of universal credit.
2. Care leaver hubs
We were then joined by Rylee, a YPBMF Champion who took part in creating one of the country’s first Care Leaver Hubs, which has had a huge impact on the care experienced individuals across their local authority. The heart of this Hub beats with the belief that everyone deserves a chance: an opportunity to thrive, and a place where they feel they belong. Not only does the Hub provide crisis support and a place to have fun and relax and life skills teaching, but it also acts as a temporary respite for those who are in need. The experiences shared reflected a real passion and positive engagement from young people.
With regard to the creation of care leaver hubs at a local level, the Young People’s Benchmarking Forum asked decision and policy makers to:
- ask themselves, “If you do not have a stand-alone care leaver hub at the moment, why not? What could you do to change this?”,
- co-produce the hub with care experienced individuals and encourage them to use it and make it accessible,
- form a steering group with young people and keep them involved in the development of the facility, and
- get a care leaver hub in your budget and keep resourcing it.
With regard to the creation of care leaver hubs at a national level, the Young People’s Benchmarking Forum asked decision and policy makers to:
- think about how they can support the development of care leavers hubs across the country,
- make the creation of care leaver hubs in each local authority a statutory duty,
- ask if there are businesses who have resources that can help support us with spaces or additional resources, and
- find out who else can help us influence people and raise the profile of the benefits of care leavers hubs.
3. Unaccompanied asylum seeking children (UASC) triangles
The Barnardo’s Triangles Project works with care experienced young people across the country to produce ideas on how to create change in the care system and have their ideas invested in. This year, they have brought together young people with experience of seeking safety in the UK as unaccompanied children. Alnour and other care experienced young people wanted to change the experience of entering the UK, because their experiences were impersonal and traumatic. Through this they have designed and created a comic book to help other young people in similar situations feel welcomed, valued and cared for rather than vilified.
In support of the UASC Triangles project at a local level, the Young People’s Benchmarking Forum asked decision and policy makers to:
- provide comic books for all children and young people seeking safety in the UK to bring comfort and guidance and help them know that they are not alone,
- encourage local authorities that work with children and young people seeking safety in the UK to purchase comic books or contact Barnardo’s for further information on how to acquire them, and
- share the Barnardo’s video with professionals and decision makers.
In support of the UASC Triangles project at a national level, the Young People’s Benchmarking Forum asked decision and policy makers to:
- provide a warm welcome for children and young people seeking sanctuary, seeing them as children first and foremost,
- ensure that children seeking asylum in the UK are met with love and care, and have access to the same opportunities as other children and young people,
- advocate for the rights of UASC young people as children and young people first, and
- challenge the often dehumanising rhetoric around those seeking sanctuary in the UK.
4. Free transport
Transport is something that affects many care leavers across the country. Research conducted by Carefree Cornwall recently identified that this was one of the biggest barriers for care experienced individuals in their local area and, in June 2023, their free transport scheme went live. This has had a huge impact on the mental health and wellbeing of care leavers, enabling them to feel the freedom to travel and improving their independence skills. Alongside the Barnardo’s Transport for Freedom campaign, Lawrence and many other care experienced individuals have campaigned and visited parliament to encourage people to implement this nationally.
Recognising the importance of free transport at a local level, the Young People’s Benchmarking Forum asked decision and policy makers to:
- make transport free for care experienced young people aged 18-25 in your local area
Recognising the importance of free transport at a national level, the Young People’s Benchmarking Forum asked decision and policy makers to:
- make transport free for care experienced young people aged 18-25 across the country.
5. Care experience as a Protected Characteristic
Our final speaker Leigh, a YPBMF Champion, took the stage to talk about the importance of care experience as a protected characteristic: a campaign which over 40 local authorities have adopted. Leigh shared their recent interview with the BBC Look North about how discrimination has affected them in the past, and how securing protected characteristic status could improve the outcomes for care leavers and give them the same opportunities in life.
In support of making care experience a protected characteristic at a local level, the Young People’s Benchmarking Forum asked decision and policy makers to:
- find out if their council has passed the motion to make care experience a protected characteristic,
- ask how we can help implement it if the motion has been passed by their council, or
- consider writing to their MP, if it has not, to request the motion is developed with care experienced young people and heard at council meetings.
In support of making care experience a protected characteristic at a national level, the Young People’s Benchmarking Forum asked decision and policy makers to:
- re-open the discussion about making care experienced a protected characteristic within government,
- hold national events to discuss the campaign, and
- consider pilot schemes to explore how local authorities are adopting and implementing in the area.
Improving outcomes for care experienced individuals is something the Young People’s Benchmarking Forum advocate for every day. This event was a showcase the views of care experienced individuals and how important each of these topics are, how these topics have impacted them, and their everyday lives.
To close the event, Mark Riddell MBE reflected on each of these key topics that had been picked up by the YPBMF. He encouraged local and parliamentary leaders to look at each of them and include care leavers in the decision making process:
“I always have something to say about the world of our care experienced and care leavers. It still feels like a post code lottery, you get it based on where they live… To sum up, everything I have heard today, I will be taking back to parliament and government.” – Mark Riddell MBE, National Implementation Adviser for Care Leavers at the Department for Education
A massive well done to all of our care experienced speakers and host.View Young Person's hub