Local offer for care leavers

Part of Children and Social Work Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee am 2:15 pm ar 13 Rhagfyr 2016.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Edward Timpson Edward Timpson Minister of State (Education) 2:15, 13 Rhagfyr 2016

I am explaining the current situation. As the law stands, the local authority will continue to provide the same care-leaving service for those children and young people until all their appeal rights have been exhausted. There will be a period following a decision during which every effort will be made to repatriate them to their country of origin. Of course, that will not happen immediately after the courts have made a final decision.

The local authority can, of course, continue to provide ongoing and further support in such circumstances, which may include the continuation of a foster placement or continuing support from a personal adviser, where it considers that appropriate. The Department for Education and the Home Office will continue to work with local authorities and relevant non-governmental organisations on the development of the regulations and guidance required to implement the new arrangements for support set out in the Immigration Act 2016. Those regulations will be made under provisions that will be subject, in due course, to debate and approval in both Houses of Parliament under the affirmative procedure, which I suspect will be the forum for Opposition Members to continue pressing on the issue. I have set out the Government’s position and the rationale behind it.

New clause 13 would require the Secretary of State to undertake an annual review of care leavers’ access to education. I reassure the Committee that we already publish such information, and I will set out the measures we have already taken to better support care leavers into education, employment and training. As the hon. Member for South Shields said, the high proportion of care leavers who are not in education, employment or training is a long-standing problem.

Of course, there are many reasons for the NEET rate being higher for care leavers than for young people in the general population, not least the impact of pre-care experiences. That is why, earlier this year, we published “Keep on Caring,” our new cross-Government care leaver strategy. One of the five outcomes we set out in the strategy is to improve care leavers’

“access to education, training and employment”.

A number of new measures were announced in the strategy that are designed to turn that ambition into reality, including: a commitment to provide funding for a new approach to helping care leavers into education, employment and training by using social investments to fund “payment by results” contracts that reward providers only when care leavers achieve positive outcomes; and a pilot work placement programme to provide care leavers with opportunities to work in central Government Departments.

Care leavers have already been recruited to work in the Department for Education, the Department of Health and the Department for Work and Pensions. Indeed, a new member of my private office is a care leaver, and she has been a fantastic acquisition for the team. Through our new care leaver covenant, we are also encouraging organisations from across society to offer work opportunities to care leavers and to work specifically with FE and HE providers to set out a clear offer of support for care leavers studying in further and higher education.

Financial support is also already provided to care leavers in education. Where care leavers are in higher education, there is a duty on local authorities to provide a £2,000 bursary to help with the cost of studies and a requirement to provide accommodation during university holidays. Care leavers in further education can also receive financial support through the 16-to-19 bursary, for which care leavers are a priority group. The bursary provides up to £1,200 a year to support the cost of their studies. Through DWP’s second chance learning initiative, care leavers are able to claim benefits while studying full time up until the age of 21.

The Government also publish data on the activity of care leavers aged 17 to 21, which previously were not available. The data identify the proportion of care leavers at each age point who are in higher education, other non-advanced education, employment or training, and those who are NEET, which provides the information necessary to track progress over time and will be a key way of ensuring that we can tell whether our changes are having the desired impact.