Corporate parenting in action – using the local offer to ‘set care leavers up to succeed’
Monday, December 16, 2019
Sarah Wilkinson talks about findings from a project that sheds light on the local offer for care leavers. The findings of the project – carried out by the National Leaving Care Benchmarking Forum (NLCBF) – will be of interest to practitioners, policymakers and anyone with an interest in improving outcomes for care leavers.
This post is part of the Rees Centre blog. We welcome guest posts from across the sector. Views expressed are those of the author.
What is the local offer for care leavers?
Since the Children and Social Work Act (2017), local authorities have been required to develop a local offer for care leavers in partnership with young people. The local offer should inform care leavers about all the support and services available to them. It should cover all statutory entitlements, but also include discretionary support that local authorities – as corporate parents – offer to their care leavers. This could include things like paying for Wi-Fi or taking young people out for a meal to celebrate achievements or birthdays.
The guidance states the local offer should include six main areas: health and wellbeing; relationships; education and training; employment; accommodation and participation in society. Our members wanted to learn from each other and understand more about what areas of additional support were commonly included within local offers, as well as less common areas of support.
What did the project involve?
The project aimed to share positive practice examples and produce a resource that would help local authorities review and improve their offers for care leavers. We carried out a survey with members, a systematic mapping of 20 local offers, discussions with the Young Peoples’ Benchmarking Forum (YPBMF) Champions and interviews with representatives from member local authorities. The work resulted in a report and accompanying analysis – which we launched in November 2019.
Local offer as a vehicle for engaging wider corporate family
While the local offer is just one part of the work that local authorities do to support care leavers; it‘s a pivotal opportunity and provides further impetus to engage partners and wider corporate parents to ask what more they can do. The local authorities who had most success in securing offers – such as discounted water bills, offers in local restaurants, job opportunities and more – were the ones that had used the local offer to open up conversations with local partners, businesses and the wider council.
What’s going well?
We found a huge amount of work had been done by LAs (often in partnership with young people) to develop meaningful and in some cases, ambitious offers for care leavers. Some of our key findings relating to positive impact of the local offer include:
- Positive engagement – of young people leading the offer
- Bringing information together – the opportunity to consolidate information for young people for the first time
- A whole council approach – a renewed focus on ‘corporate parenting’ and sharing responsibility and ambition for care leavers beyond children’s services
- Better services for young people – local authorities had brokered new opportunities for young people as a direct result of developing the local offer
Work still to be done
While we found examples of fantastic practice, we also took away some key areas to focus work on improving. These included:
- Postcode Lottery – addressing the variation between local authorities in the additional support they offered care leavers
- Accessibility – reviewing the format and accessibility of the local offer, making sure that the offer really covers all care leavers
- Awareness – there is still work to do to disseminate and review the offer to make sure that leaving care staff, partners and young people know about it
In the same way that parents would strive to do whatever they could do support their children flourish, corporate parents are committed reviewing and improving their local offers for care leavers.
At NLCBF, we’re committed to supporting local authorities and young people to help improve services for care leavers at the local level, and also use our relationships with national policy makers and partners to take forward the recommendations from this work.
As Joe Shaw, one of our Young People’s Benchmarking Forum Champions, who authored a foreword in the report said:
“From what I’ve seen, local offers are looking good. Exemption for council tax, paying for young people’s passports, driving licence and driving lessons and in some places like Wigan, paying for prescriptions. These things set young people up to succeed.
My advice to local authorities is to work with young people to continue to improve the offer”
Sarah Wilkinson, Care Leavers Impact Lead for Catch22’s National Leaving Care Benchmarking Forum
The report was produced by the NLCBF and authored by Sarah Wilkinson and Dr Claire Baker with Lisa Holland.
To discuss the findings of the report, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
The Rees Centre welcomes guest blog posts from professionals across the sector. Views expressed are the authors’ own and do not represent those of the Rees Centre.