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Care leavers

Care leavers in parliament

Close-up of Big Ben (the Elizabeth Tower) in Westminster.
At the end of last year, Young Money announced that the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Financial Education for Young People were launching an Inquiry into Children in Care and Financial Education. The National Leaving Care Benchmarking Forum – a Forum of over 100 local authorities – worked with young people (from the Young People’s Benchmarking Forum, YPBMF) to gather views and experiences of care leavers in response to the inquiry.

Joe and Ralph – YPBMF Champions – were involved in creating the APPG submission and were later invited to the Houses of Parliament to give evidence. Thanks to Ralph and Joe for sharing their experience in this blog.

On 4 April, myself and Joe, accompanied by Nat from the National Leaving Care Benchmarking Forum, came to London to give evidence to the All Party Parliamentary Group on Financial Education. In advance, the MPs shared 6 questions with us on what kind of experiences we’d had whilst in care, particularly focusing on the financial education we’d received, and how prepared we felt when it came to moving out spreading our independent wings and paying our bills.

We arrived at Portcullis House for 10:45, queued up to go through airport-like security, received our visitor passes and were shown up to the conference room to get prepared while we waited for the MP’s to join us. The others participants were really friendly and chatty. Norman Lamb MP and Julian Knight MP soon walked in, introduced themselves, and thanked us all for our attendance.

Some of the key things that we talked about were:

  • Postcode lottery – one thing that stood out for me was how very different some of us experienced being in care, and how much education and support we received along the way made it almost like a postcode lottery, despite the fact that we are all entitled to the same level of care and support.
  • Not what we do for, but how we teach young people – between us all there was consistently a lack of financial education not just for care leavers but for the general mainstream population; young people do not feel informed enough about financial matters. It was a great discussion and I hope the system can be changed to educate not just care leavers, but young people in general. As you have heard once and you will hear again, it is not what we do for young people, it is what we teach them to do for themselves that will make them successful human beings.
  • Universal Credit – as near enough all care leavers are Universal Credit customers, I asked whether a financial advice class could be implemented into the 30 hours job search you have to complete for Universal Credit payments, reducing job search to 15-20 hours. Attending the class would upskill our care leavers and avoid the amount of sanctions young people receive for not completing job searches.

As it was an evidence session for care experienced young people, it felt good to be supported by Catch22 to share our experiences without the need for professionals to speak on our behalf. Sometimes professionals speak on behalf of their young people, when this becomes second nature, the young person’s presence becomes tokenistic.

What happens next?

After the discussion we were given a tour around The Houses of Parliament. I asked what would be done with the days’ findings and they said it could be used to influence future policy for care leavers.

Reflecting on the experience of being involved in the Inquiry, Joe said:

“It’s amazing to be a part of sessions like this where we can all talk about and improve things early on in someone’s life – I am very keen to see an evidence based approach on how this will work.”

Today, Young Money have released their full report on the Inquiry on Financial Education for Looked After Children and Care Leavers.

Sarah Wilkinson, Catch22 Care Leavers Impact Lead comments:

“We know that when an individual moves on from care, they face the daunting task of becoming financially literate without the ‘safety net’ and support many of their peers enjoy. It’s clear financial education is a necessity if we expect care leavers to make informed, confident budget decisions day-to-day.

“We are pleased that the inquiry has shone light on these additional challenges and welcome the recommendation for banks and financial services to step up and support this group.

“We are delighted that our YPMBF Champions were invited to give evidence and have contributed to the recommendations in the report, we hope the report will highlight what can be done to remove practical barriers and better support care leavers so that they can confidently progress from care to independence.”