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Care leavers

The impact of Universal Credit uplift for care leavers

A young woman sits on the floor covered with a blanket. She hugs a dog and her face is covered by her hair as she does so.

The National Leaving Care Benchmarking Forum is a network of over 100 local authorities. Our aim is to enrich outcomes for our nation’s care leavers. The forum promotes the development of quality leaving care services with member authorities and partner organisations through a process of researching and sharing learning on a national scale.

On Wednesday 20th January, 31 care leavers from 25 local authorities met for a Young People’s Benchmarking Forum (YPBMF) Virtual Meeting to discuss a range of issues including how the support they received to ensure their financial stability impacted on health, mental health and wellbeing.

Care experienced participation workers led a discussion and then facilitated a live poll and survey using Mentimeter.

Following this the survey was shared via the National Leaving Care Benchmarking Forum (NLCBF) membership and remained open for two weeks. A further 75 care leavers took part in the survey. In total 106 care leavers participated.

Main findings:

  • The Universal Credit uplift has helped care leavers to purchase food, pay for gas, electric and phone bills and pay for emergencies. Care leavers recognised that the uplift had positively impacted their mental health.
  • In addition to the Universal Credit uplift, care leavers told us that food parcels and additional financial support from leaving care teams made a big difference to their wellbeing and ability to cope.
  • Many care leavers have lost their employment or are working reduced hours, due to the pandemic – with many working in the sectors like retail and hospitality that have been hardest hit.
  • Some care leavers report that they have ended up in debt, during the pandemic.
  • Care Leavers leavers are very concerned that if they lose the Universal Credit uplift, they will find themselves at risk of homelessness and unmanageable debt and may struggle to eat and pay the bills.

“My mental health will rapidly decline as I’ll worry how can I afford to live. I worry I can’t continue to pay my heating bill I’m in debt with, I worry I won’t be able to eat properly again.”


  1. Make the increased Under 25 Universal Credit rate permanent for Care Leavers, recognising that most care leavers are financially independent after their 18th birthday.
  2. Continually review financial support for care leavers, recognising that financial provision has a significant impact on care leavers’ health and wellbeing; access to employment and educational opportunities; ability to stay connected with friends and family and to stay digitally connected.
  3. Well publicised accurate information about financial support and bursaries to be included in local offers for all care leavers to access.
  4. Ensure care leavers can access ringfenced employment and support opportunities, as we come out of the pandemic.
  5. Care leavers would benefit from specific a debt helpline and support. Education through peer to peer financial independence activities are beneficial e.g. Lancashire’s peer to peer approach utilising ASDAN resources. Financial education in schools, in care and when leaving care can be very variable in standard. This leaves care leavers vulnerable to fraud (especially online) and taking on unmanageable levels of debt.
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