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Care leavers

Setting the agenda: Care experienced people bring their key messages to decision makers

A group of male and female young people gather around a table. They are passing around pieces of paper and discussing their contents.

On July 18th, the National Leaving Care Benchmarking Forum held the online event “In Their Own Words: Experiences and Insights From Care Experienced Young People”. Nat O’Brien, Coproduction and Engagement Lead for NLCBF summarises the event.

How did our event come about?

Over the course of this year we decided on five key themes that the event would focus on and a structure for the event to ensure that our target audience could attend, hear the key takeaways, and participate in conversations around the key subjects.

The key themes were reasonably easy to select as they were the ones that had come up so frequently in the last two years (although there were others that were hard to leave out e.g. accommodation and employment/training):

  1. care experienced young parents,
  2. LGBTQ+ support for children looked after and care experienced individuals,
  3. mental health,
  4. cost of living and financial support to care leavers, and
  5. criminalisation of care leavers.

What happened

We invited “Friends of the Forum” to take part in delivering the event as the forum works closely with many organisations and individuals to amplify campaigns, share solutions and understanding of the challenges that are face care experienced individuals. We decided a two-hour, online event was the best way to make it accessible for our target audience to attend.

On Monday 18th July, over 140 decision makers attended the event. We were so proud of all of our presenter and facilitators who delivered their key messages despite the challenges of the day  whilst outside on the day the temperature was hitting over 35 degrees in most areas of the country.  Our attendees included Lead members and DCS from across the country, key policy leads from HMPPS, the Police, Magistrates, Ministry of Justice, Department for Education and the third sector.

At the end of the event, we asked people attending to make a pledge of an action that they could take.  Here are a few of those pledges:

  • “To keep campaigning in the areas of youth justice and the rights and needs of young care leavers.”
  • “I work in mental health and we need to think  more specifically about the individual needs of care experienced young people and then what do we need to change about what we do, what we offer and how we engage these young adults.”
  • “Build our work on reducing criminalisation of care-experienced young people, including changing the response to missing reports as that can contribute.”
  • “Continue to support those with lived experience to be heard and invest in ways to create long-term change.”
  • “Be more aware – view it as how would I want my children to be treated.”
  • “Always so much more impactful to hear from young people and I’d love to ask them to come into the dept and speak to us and get thoughts on the Care Review recommendations for care leavers.”
  • “Very insightful and eye-opening event. Every presenter was excellent and obviously passionate and knowledgeable about their subject. Thank you everyone.”

Summary of key messages shared at the event

Young parents

Alisha Howe and Liss Philips from Warwickshire County Councils ‘Baby Box Project’ said: “We need to break the cycle! It’s not just about one young person but their children too.” They asked decision makers to explore whether their service had ‘an offer to care experienced parents’ and ‘would it be good enough for your own child?’


Reena Syed and Charlotte Andrews from the LGBTQ+ Youth In Care Network said that “Training is necessary to equip those who work with care experienced people with the awareness and tools they need to support the specific needs of LGBTQ+ children and young people in care”.  They asked attendees to “Share the inclusive care report along with the recommendations to your networks. Think about the recommendations and work with us to develop them within your services.”

Mental health

Florida Yakob and Farhia Yusul from the Drive Forward Foundation said that “Too many young people transition out of local authority care at the same time as their CAMHS support is stopped, aged 18, even though this is one of the most pivotal and stressful periods in their lives.”  They ask attendees to commit to finding ways to “Provide specialist mental health support for care leavers within the leaving care offer” from their position of influence.

Cost of living

Jodie from the National House Project/Care Leavers National Movement and Billie Jo Thompson from the National Leaving Care Benchmarking Forum told attendees that “The removal of the £20 uplift and the impact that has had on already impoverished young people living independently and how the standard allowance for a young person under 25 doesn’t match what the cost of living for them would be.”  They asked attendees to make all “Care experienced young people should be made eligible for the over 25 rates”.

Criminalisation of care leavers

Nathan Parker (Worcestershire First/YPBMF Champion), Jasmine Hagan & Ralph Rushworth from National Leaving Care Benchmarking Forum told attendees to “Help to challenge the stigma for care experienced people in the justice system – young people become victims of exploitation first, not perpetrators.” They asked attendees to find ways to find alternative resolution to crime (especially relatively minor crime within care settings) to “protect care experienced people without the need for prosecution and pushing them further into exploitation and criminal activity”.