The Care Leaver Covenant, launched a year ago in Birmingham by then children’s minister Nadim Zahawi, seeks to create practical, specific offers from organisations in the public, private and voluntary sectors to support care leavers aged 16-25 to live independently.
The Covenant links care leavers to offers such as discounts, financial support, legal services, exemptions, personal development, workshops, training, work experience, apprenticeships and internships. It has five key outcomes in mind, helping care leavers to:
- Be better prepared to live independently.
- Have improved access to employment, education and training.
- Experience stability in their lives and feel safe and secure.
- Have improved access to health support.
- Achieve financial stability.
The Covenant also has a greater purpose: it recognises that while councils have legal obligations to support care leavers, wider society has a moral imperative to act as a lifelong ‘universal family’.
It seeks to nurture an environment in which love, belonging and hope are the drive behind individuals and organisations’ commitment to offer support to those leaving care, ensuring they have all the opportunities we would give our own children to lead fulfilled lives. The Covenant is working to fuse higher purpose with practical support.
It recognises that through planning and procurement, there are wider opportunities to help care leavers – from council tax exemptions to Section 106 agreements, apprenticeships to internships, and a range of economic development and employer engagement programmes, commercial partners – as well as councils – can broaden the local offers that are made to those leaving care.
With this in mind, the Covenant will be sharing its approach through the production of a toolkit for incorporating social value into public procurement at the Solace Summit next month.
And the Covenant’s leadership will also explore how councils can go even further in adopting a whole organisation approach by recognising that being a good parent goes beyond commitment from children’s services and its care teams. We want to support councils’ endeavours to ensure those leaving care are everyone’s interest and responsibility.
I look forward to working with more local authority colleagues as we help more care leavers like
Jermaine from our case study below.
JERMAINE FREEMAN – ACTOR
Jermaine Freeman is 21. He recently finished a run playing Flute in A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Bridge Theatre in London.
Jermaine only started acting 18 months ago, joining The Big House, a north east London-based theatre company that works with care leavers.
This year he spent six days a week rehearsing and performing with Gwendoline Christie, Hammed Animashaun, Tessa Bonham Jones and others from the Dream cast.
Even among this diverse cast, Jermaine was distinctive for two reasons: he suffers from sickle cell disease, which causes chronic pain, nausea and severe tiredness and requires frequent blood transfusions and he is also a care leaver. He grew up in the care of Brent LBC, living most of his life in Harlesden, north west London. He experienced periods of homelessness and moved between bedsits and supported accommodation before moving into his current house share.
Jermaine has never had contact with his father, has no siblings and both his mother and his aunt, who had been his principal carers, died from sickle cell.
There were times when it looked like the Dream might not happen for Jermaine and it was remarkable that he made it to opening night. Sickle cell sufferers need to maintain a steady and nutritious diet, manage energy exertion and stamina and, try to minimise severe ambient temperature changes. A demanding rehearsal schedule at the Bridge put a strain on all these factors and Jermaine was in and out of hospital as the opening night approached.
Add to this the challenges many young care leavers face – a lack of pastoral support, a change of accommodation, minimal furniture and equipment at home and a lack of funds for travel, and it is easy to see why maintaining focus and stepping on to the stage on opening night was so difficult. Jermaine started the summer run strongly, performing night after night at the Bridge with Dream receiving favourable reviews.
He was supported with these challenges by the Care Leaver Covenant. This meant assistance with furnishing his flat, and advice about his diet in and outside of hospital, as well as transport to and from hospital and even motivational coaching from trained professionals within the Covenant team. Jermaine is one of many care leavers to have benefitted from the organisations making offers through the Care Leaver Covenant.
Mark Rogers is chair, advisory board, of the Care Leaver Covenant, and director general Government of Jersey - children, young people, education and skills
The Solace Summit will take place at the Hilton Birmingham Metropole on 16-18 October https://events.solace.org.uk/summit/solace-summit-2019/