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Supporting care leavers in Cumbria

A new national programme of support for young care experienced adults has been launched throughout England. Managed by UK Community Foundations, the Care Leavers Programme has a primary focus of improving the life chances of care leavers through decentralised funding into regions around the country.

The £3.6 million match fund scheme will run over three years and is being funded by the Local Authorities’ Mutual Investment Trust (LAMIT), a shareholder of the UK’s biggest charities asset manager, CCLA.

There were 46,000 care leavers between 17 and 21 years old in England alone in 2022. Each year, young people leaving the care system immediately meet a range of challenges that their peers might not experience.

Deficiencies in transitional and practical support mean that care leavers are often less likely to get the help they need to make a fresh start as a young adult. Gaps in support have been found when it comes to relationships and mentoring, education, employment and mental health.

In the year ending March 2023, 71% of care experienced young people in Cumbria, aged between 17-18 were in education, employment, or training compared to the 66% national average. However, by the age of 19-21 there were higher rates of those not in education, employment, or training (42%), compared to the national figure (38%), showing a considerable drop in engagement between 18 and 21 years of age.

Cumbria Community Foundation is working closely with Cumberland Council and Westmorland & Furness Council, Cumbria Youth Alliance and Inspira as part of their strategic approach to help care experienced young people transition into adulthood.

Brighter Futures

The Brighter Futures programme offers personalised support, which includes both one-to-one personal and professional work-based mentoring, bespoke life skills development and work-experience placements tailored to their aspirations. In addition, employers and training providers will be equipped with the knowledge and understanding needed to support care experienced young people to thrive in a work-based environment.

Cllr Richard Kemp CBE, Deputy Lord Mayor of Liverpool and Chair of LAMIT, said: “We are delighted to be working with both Cumbria Community Foundation and their partner local authorities Cumberland Council and Westmorland & Furness Council to deliver extra support to young people within the care system that badly need it. This fund of £275,000, which includes funding of £115,500 from CCLA over three years, will provide that little bit of extra support that is vital for care experienced young people.

“Nationally, our care system is creaking at the seams despite the best endeavours of dedicated professionals such as social workers and probation officers. We need to find innovative approaches for young people who have left care, in which society can wrap its arm around them in the same way that we as parents and grandparents wrap our arms around the young people in our own family.

“Over the next three years we hope to hold a series of events both nationally and here in Cumbria to learn from what has been achieved and challenge all partners and potential partners, such as the NHS and the criminal justice system, to work together in a more challenging and holistic way.”

Jenny Benson
Jenny Benson

Jenny Benson, Director of Programmes & Partnerships at Cumbria Community Foundation, said: “The Brighter Futures programme has been co-designed with a range of stakeholders and fully informed by the experiences of care experienced young people. It specifically addresses gaps in current provision, encourages collaboration, engages employers, and has the potential to positively influence national policy.”

Rosemary Macdonald BEM, Chief Executive at UK Community Foundations, said: “Inequalities for care leavers differ from region to region, and this true for those living in Cumbria. It is key that we harness the knowledge of local organisations to not just fund fantastic projects for young people leaving the care system, but to nurture those relationships and keep the momentum going to make real change happen.

“By supporting individual care leavers and supportive organisations in Cumbria, Cumbria Community Foundation will be able to use this programme as a way of uniting communities and authorities, to explore local solutions to local issues and use the learning to influence wider support.”

Councillor Shaun Davies, Chair of the Local Government Association, said: “Councils support thousands of young people who become care leavers every year, whether that is finding a home to live in or help into work. Alongside our communities, the LGA is delighted to be able to support this fantastic new initiative which can help to transform care leavers’ lives as they make the transition into adulthood.”