At the borough’s first summit for care leavers, local organisations, businesses, councillors and senior council officers pledged to support care leavers as they moved into adulthood.
‘Care leavers’ means young people who have been looked after by Ealing Council.
Sheila Lock, the independent chair of the borough’s safeguarding board, hosted the event along with Billy Wagon-Horrix, a local care leaver. They gave those attending the opportunity to consider their own specific and unique ways of adding value and contributing to care leaver’s lives.
The summit started with the reading of a beautiful poem by Clarissa Alexander, another local care leaver. The poem laid out what it means to be a young care-experienced person and how we can all support those young people into the future.
Making experience of care a ‘protected characteristic‘
It is against the law to discriminate against someone because of age; disability; gender reassignment; marriage and civil partnership; pregnancy and maternity; race, religion or belief; sex; or sexual orientation. These are known as protected characteristics of a person.
Councillor Peter Mason, leader of Ealing Council, announced that Ealing is committed to making experience of care a protected characteristic for young people in the borough, stating, “In Ealing, our care leavers have achieved amazing things, despite the challenges they have faced. Today’s event is testament to the talent, promise and potential of our care leavers.
“As a council and as a community, we have an incredibly important role to play in the lives of all of our borough’s young people. Care leavers often face multiple barriers both visible and invisible, and this is something that must change.
“So, at our next full council meeting, we will be putting forward a motion alongside care leavers themselves, which will make experience of care a protected characteristic, to ensure every young person in our borough has the fairest start in life, despite the challenges they face.”
Councillor Kamaljit Nagpal, cabinet member for a fairer start, said: “Today, we have gathered to address the pressing issues faced by young people who have grown up in care, to provide a platform for their voices, and to pledge offers of support for our care leavers.
“Being a corporate parent means doing everything we can for every child in the council’s care – and those leaving it – to give them access to all of the opportunities that other children get. We need to be ambitious for the children in our care, encouraging them to dream big.
“This is about making sure that every young person who leaves our care has someone at the end of a phone when they have hard day at work or university, or need help navigating an application form. It’s about doing the things we would all do for our own children.”
A survey carried out prior to the conference enabled young people to be explicit about their needs and identified key areas where young people need support. These were: Housing, employment, health and wellbeing, education, leisure, mentoring and advocacy, finance and immigration.
At the summit, young care-experienced people ran challenging workshops to encourage meaningful pledges from those present – and to deepen understanding within the council and the other organisations present of what it means to be a good corporate parent.
The pledges came in thick and fast, with the first being a commitment from local police commander Sean Wilson pledging to provide support and mentoring to care leavers and young people at risk of offending. This was followed by an announcement from Brentford FC’s Community Sports Trust ambassador, former footballer Marcus Gayle, who announced a commitment to supporting participation and inclusion through setting-up a direct hotline for care leavers, where they can find out more about sport, education and healthy lifestyles.
‘Take over day’
Tony Clements, the council’s chief executive, announced a council and partners ‘take over day’, where care-experienced and other young people will be invited to “take over the work and decision making for a day.” This will take place on November 17 this year.
The council’s housing team pledged to work more closely with care leavers for better housing outcomes, and government advisor Samad Nadimi, from the Department of Levelling Up Communities and Housing, shared a joint housing protocol to create better homes, and ‘improving housing outcomes for care leavers.’
More than 70 pledges were made on the day, including a dedicated support centre from the local NHS trust, to provide mentoring, work experience opportunities and mental health support.
What will you pledge?
Pledges can still be made. If you are interested in assisting care leavers as they transition into adulthood get in contact with Carol Yates, head of children’s services, by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org