Behind the headlines

regular panel comments on a topic in the news.

The transition to adulthood is fraught with
difficulties for most teenagers as they acquire a greater degree of
independence. The government hopes to smooth the transition with a child trust
fund, announced last year and scheduled to appear before the next election. The
initiative would provide all newborn babies with an account and a "baby
bond" into which their families would save money until the child had
access to it at the age of 18. While the benefits of the scheme are plain,
children in the care system who have limited, if any, parental contact may be
excluded from them, in spite of the fact that the hurdles they have to cross
into adulthood are often higher than those for other children. The Institute
for Public Policy Research suggests, in a new discussion paper, that the
government should consider extending the trust fund concept to care leavers.
Allowing children in care to accumulate a trust fund would, the IPPR argues,
enable them to cope more effectively with this difficult transitional phase and
make them feel more valued as citizens.

Warwick, senior practitioner, Barnardo’s
"Children in care do suffer multiple discrimination because of their
position. A trust fund managed by corporate parents may go some way to
assisting a young person in feeling that they are a stakeholder in society. My
thoughts, though, are with the many invisible children who are living below the
poverty line with their birth families."

Martin Green, chief executive, Counsel and Care for the Elderly
"I think the idea of trust funds for care leavers is an interesting
one that is worth further exploration. We need to think laterally about the
issue of how to fund care and support needs in the long-term care sector for older
people as well. There is a serious need for these sorts of ideas to be explored
and developed."

Phil Frampton, national chairperson, Care
Leavers Association
"As corporate parents
of children in care, the government should be putting money into a fund for
each child in care. But this will be tokenism unless measures are taken to
ensure that young care leavers are given decent, safe, affordable housing, full
financial support for training, and educational opportunities. Mentoring of
care leavers is also necessary because leaving care is about how to spend what
little money you have, paying bills and making your way in a society that
discriminates against care leavers."

Felicity Collier, chief executive, BAAF
Adoption and Fostering
"Ninety per cent of
children in care are from the poorest 10 per cent in our society. Poverty and
cumulative disadvantage will have had a major influence on why they ended up in
the care system in the first place. If the state is to take seriously its
responsibility as a corporate parent it must ensure that the duties and
responsibilities under the Children(Leaving Care) Act 2000 are properly
implemented and resourced. Each young person leaving care at 18 must now have a
pathway plan that sets out how their physical, emotional, educational, health
and housing needs will be met. This demands a far more comprehensive approach
to this critical area of policy for one of the most vulnerable groups in

Bill Badham, programme manager, Children’s
"This is just another
example of the sticking plaster state. Jay, who has experience of leaving care,
told me this fund won’t tackle poverty caused by £42 a week benefits and a
£2,000 grant to set up on your own. Anyway, who’s going to fund the fund? If
the government wants to get serious and stop stigmatising, then it knows what
to do, including reintroducing benefits for 16 and 17-year-olds and single
payments for essential items."

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