Earlier this year the Independent Review of Children's Social Care recommended that care experience should be made a Protected Characteristic in law, sitting beside other protected characteristics such as age, disability, race, religion under the Equality Act 2010. Many care leavers face a range of disadvantages, often finding it challenging to access further support, especially those with complex needs. Just under half aged between the ages of 19-21 are not in education, training or employment and a quarter of homeless people in England have spent time in care.
The Governments response to this recommendation is yet to be published, however in September 2022 Ashfield District Council voluntarily added care experience to the other nine protected characteristics in their district, with Manchester City Council following suit in October noting that it should be in all of their Equality Impact Assessments. Break CEO Rachel Cowdry shares her thoughts on this decision:
“It has been really interesting to see the development in debates around the Care Review Recommendations. Both Ashfield and Manchester’s pledge to make care experience a “protected characteristic” attempts to level the playing field in recognition of the disadvantage faced by those who are brought up in care. At Break we have always worked hard to give those with care experience an equal footing so this isn't a new concept to us. We have integrated it into our practice quietly, knowing that it was the right thing to do. It's common sense. It's being fair and human.
"We know our care leavers need that extra step up, the hand-held, to ensure that their next stride is made in the safest possible way. We committed a long time ago to guarantee them life-long support, to encourage them, and to offer work experience and confidence building opportunities so that they can succeed in their aspiration to have a job. We walk alongside them as the makers of their own destinies and see them succeed. It is in our values, it is at the heart of everything we do. Our challenge now, alongside Ashfield and Manchester, is to convince everyone else that there is no need to wait to put this into practice. For us, it makes complete sense.”
Published in May 2022, the Independent Review of Children’s Care proposes a radical change to the care system for children. As well as bringing family support back into communities, making it a more accessible, connected and caring system with lifelong support, it argues that by recommending that care experience is made a Protected Characteristic under equalities legislation, outcomes for care leavers will drastically improve.
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