clinic Two of our regular panellists offer advice to help 16-18-year-olds.
access to money for those vulnerable young people between 16 and 18 is very
difficult unless you’re in education, work or recognised training. If you’re
not and you don’t qualify for severe hardship payments you have no access to
money at all. This is particularly problematic if you’re homeless or a young
parent. What can be done to improve this? What support should councils give to
young parents, for example? What advice can the panel give?
Kane, student social worker on placement with NSPCC
The key issue for vulnerable 16 to 18 year olds is that they are no longer
children and not yet adults. A transition planning approach can be helpful, in
which such young people receive a joint assessment by a member of the local
children’s services network and a member of the adult services network. This
can then stand as a benchmark assessment of how a vulnerable young person can
be supported as a young adult through a smooth transfer of case responsibility
a network of nominated staff with representatives from the youth offending
team, the children and adolescent mental health team (CAMHS), the looked-after
children team, the Connexions service, the youth voluntary sector, the
homelessness team, the Benefits Agency and the leaving care team. This could be
achieved perhaps through a sub-group of the local children’s joint
commissioning board or its equivalent. Separated children in the UK
(unaccompanied asylum seekers) often fall within this age group and need
supporting through this network.
awareness about the needs of this age group can be increased by establishing
youth affairs forums, a youth parliament or by investing in a children’s rights
officer post and appointing someone who can stage events, recruit mentors,
write articles in the local press and be an enthusiastic champion.
whole council approach matters. For example, counter staff making payments to
16 to 18-year-olds may stereotype them negatively. A training session for all
local public sector staff dealing with 16 to 18-year-olds can promote joint
working and break down barriers.
Undoubtedly there is less assurance about how we deal with vulnerable 16 to
18-year-olds and therefore practical training for all staff that work or come
into contact with this age group would be most welcome.
is sometimes suggested that youth parliaments could act as drivers of change,
although I am somewhat sceptical about this. Unfortunately, they are not
usually made up of vulnerable young people and therefore may not shed much
light on the needs of those who are. Other suggestions, which might include
things such as more flexible strategies or improved joint working, while
useful, explorable and packed with potential, may in truth be little more than
we have reached a situation that it will only ever really be sorted out through
a fundamental change in policy. We could follow the lead of France, for
example, where 16 and 17-year-olds are not permitted to claim benefit because
they are seen as children. And as such this means that their need for
assistance is seen primarily as a welfare issue rather than a subsistence one.
16 and 17 year-olds are without family support then they are fundamentally
children in need and should be provided with a package of assistance. So much
of the law says they are still children. So much of our experience tells us that
they are still in need of protection. A substandard benefit safety net simply
isn’t enough. As with young people leaving care it may be that we will not see
a change until responsibility is apportioned absolutely.
Department of Health, Working together: Connexions and Social Services,
Stationery Office, 2001
Clark, Maryann, and Davis, Transition to Adulthood: A resource for assisting
young people with emotional or behavioural difficulties, Paul H Brookes,
Mike Stein, What works in leaving care, Barnardo’s, 1997