From careers in the legal profession to Council-based apprenticeships, care leavers are being encouraged to aim high in the working world as part of a drive to help looked after children to flourish as they become adults.
This week is National Care Leavers Week and the Council is renewing its commitment to do all it can to support looked after children leaving care as they turn 18 and become independent.
The Council is attempting to lead by example by ensuring looked after children and care leavers are well represented in its apprenticeship scheme, which is creating dozens of diverse roles across a wide range of services.
Any looked after child applying for one of these apprenticeships will get a guaranteed interview and coaching to help them prepare. Six former looked after children have already started apprenticeships in 2017.
They include Jordan, 20, who is based in Wythenshawe working as an assistant wellbeing officer in the Council’s children and adults department.
Jordan, who was interested in a career in the care sector, was alerted to the potential opportunity by his leaving care worker and decided to apply after attending an apprenticeship open day.
He said: “I’m really enjoying working in adult social care and my foster father is really proud of me. I wanted to do something where I could help care for people. I’ve found it really rewarding and it has helped boost my confidence. I’d recommend an apprenticeship like this to anyone who was in a similar position.”
The Council is also training staff to act as mentors and coaches to looked after children, and other children who would benefit from intensive support, to help equip them to thrive in the working world. And it is working with partner organisations to further support increased aspirations.
For example, the Council and Barnardos – who work with us to provide support to care leavers – are in active discussions with the Law Society about providing work placements and other support for looked after children interested in working in the legal profession. Stephensons Solicitors in Manchester has recently provided one such placement for one 17-year old and it is hoped to extend the offer.
Earlier this year the Council agreed to make Manchester care leavers exempt from Council Tax until they turn 21 to help them adapt to living independently and budgeting – something identified as an issue for care leavers nationally.
The Council is developing a Care Leavers Housing Strategy to improve accommodation choice and stability for care leavers and help prepare them for independent living.
It will build on a number of initiatives which are already in place, such as a pilot scheme to give care leavers high priority for social housing and a tailored support for any care leavers at risk of homelessness.
Careful assessments of the needs of 16-18 year old looked after children take place to help the Council and its partners plan what they will need when they leave care. Social workers and personal advisors are being given detailed guidance to help equip children with the skills to get ready for greater independence, for example through financial planning.
All of this work is underpinned by an emphasis on listening to what looked after children themselves want and need, recognising their potential and helping enable them to achieve it rather than treating them as a potential ‘problem.’
This Wednesday, 25 October, a group of looked after children will be sharing their personal experiences in a workshop with senior Council officers and councillors which will help inform future plans.
Councillor Sheila Newman, Executive Member for Children’s Services, said: “The transition from being a looked after child to a care leaver is an absolutely crucial one and we are determined to do everything we can to support our young people to move forwards and thrive in their adult lives. Listening to them to understand how we can help equip them for this is crucial. Ultimately, it is looked after children themselves who are the real experts on what they need.
“As a corporate parent, we have the same sort of high aspirations for care leavers as we have for our own children. We know that they have dreams and ambitions and we want to help realise them.
“We’ve already introduced a range of measures to help care leavers but are intent on continuing to improve their experience.
“National Care Leavers Week is the ideal time to renew and refresh our ongoing commitment to them.”