Casey Gavin went into care at 12. At 18, she got a flat through City of Wolverhampton Council but struggled to manage her finances and had to take out payday loans for essentials such as electricity, leaving her struggling with depression.
“It’s not like you turn 16, 17, 18, and all of a sudden you are going to know how to be an adult. It doesn’t work like that,” she says.
For young people leaving care, it is even harder to make that difficult but crucial transition to adulthood as they often lack the family and social networks most of their peers can rely on for help, advice and encouragement.
Here at the City of Wolverhampton Council, we are proud of our care leavers and have high aspirations for their development into adulthood. As part of this commitment, we provide additional support over and above what we are legally required to give in our ‘local offer’ to care leavers, and have forged strong links with the Care Leaver Covenant.
Launched last October, the covenant encourages public, private and voluntary organisations to pledge their support for care leavers and offer them practical support – such as apprenticeships, work experience and mentoring.
We have been pivotal in developing the covenant’s strategy: Emma Bennett, our Director of Children’s Services, was involved in its early stages, and attended the ministerial launch along with care leavers from the City of Wolverhampton’s Care Leavers Forum. We are a covenant ‘champion’ council. In line with covenant strategies, our care leavers are guaranteed an interview if they apply for a council apprenticeship, and we have three, ring-fenced, paid opportunities as well.
We are developing a graduate trainee management scheme for care leavers, as we currently have 38 young people at university. And all our care leavers living in Wolverhampton are exempt from council tax up to the age of 25.
Working with the covenant, we are leading the way with a strategy around social value and procurement. For all council contracts exceeding £181,302, 10 per cent of the evaluation score assesses contractors’ offers on social value – with the focus on opportunities for children and young people in care, and care leavers.
For example, our insurance provider, Zurich, has supported two, nine-month, paid work experience placements for our care leavers, to help them understand the insurance industry and the world of work.
And what about Casey? With the support of the council, she is now on track for a first at university and has a part-time job with the council. She is also the face of a promotional video for Barclays’ LifeSkills care leavers programme, which is a collaboration between the covenant and the bank to adapt its financial literacy materials for young people so they are more tailored to the issues facing care leavers. Casey has also been involved with evaluating the programme’s content.
Working with local partners and ensuring care leavers participate in the development of the services and support available to them are the main reasons why we have been successful in Wolverhampton in driving the range of opportunities available to our care leavers. We remain committed to further developing these opportunities, so that our many talented young care leavers achieve above and beyond that of other young people.