Children’s minister Edward Timpson will review the recently released Care Leaver Strategy annually to ensure commitments are being met he has told Community Care.
Speaking after the release of the cross-government strategy he said he would evaluate what impact it was having, whether all commitments had been met and if further commitments could be made.
“I want to make sure we don’t lose momentum on this.”
He said in the near future he also wanted to toughen up the local authority duty to help care leavers return to education if they wished to past the age of 18 or 21.
“From my own experience I know from my adopted and fostered brothers and sisters that those traumatic early experiences do play out in their ability to cope throughout life. They do suffer developmental delay and emotional difficulties and often it is not until later they recognise the need for further education to realise their ambitions.”
He agreed progress on care leaving issues had been patchy in the past despite numerous ministerial pledges.
“But I’m confident we have a much stronger focus on care leavers now. This new cross-Whitehall, approach along with the New Belongings project and the new Ofsted inspection framework means there is a much stronger package of both accountability and direct action.”
The Care Leaver Strategy brings together various commitments to improve services for care leavers from government departments including health, the Department for Work and Pensions and the Department for Local Communities.
The New Belongings project will see nine pathfinder councils working with former care leavers to transform services and create a “gold standard” of care.
The new Ofsted single inspection framework will, for the first time, include a specific graded measure on care leaving services, although this will not automatically impact on a council’s overall rating.
Timpson said he felt the Ofsted framework would drive care leaving services up local authority agendas.
“But it’s not the only thing that changes behaviour and I don’t think local authorities necessarily need Ofsted breathing down their necks to improve services.”
He said a letter he had sent to all directors of children’s services asking them to ensure each care leaver was given a minimum of £2000 to pay for essentials such as a deposit on a flat had had a very encouraging response.
“Before I sent the letter there were 32 local authorities doing this and after the letter was sent it went up to 95. I think that shows that with a little more prioritisation local authorities can up their game and provide a better deal without too much fuss.”
But he said another issue was the fact care leavers were often unaware of their entitlements. In response the government has published a one page summary of entitlements, issued through Children in Care councils.