Children’s minister is invited to see how Norfolk ‘gets it right’
15:40 01 November 2012
The children’s minister is set to get an invitation to visit Norfolk and see the “great work” being done to support care leavers here after he criticised local authorities for letting young people down.
Edward Timpson said more had to be done to tackle the “national scandal” that saw children in care more likely to end up suffering poor health and living a life of crime.
He told local authorities to end the “cliff edge” that meant many vulnerable young people were forced out of care suddenly at the age of 16 and accused officials of treating teenagers as a tick-box exercise.
Mr Timpson added: “Local authorities need to do much more. There is something very wrong when some of the most vulnerable children feel they are being forced out of care the moment they turn 16.
“Society has changed.
“Most young people are no longer ushered out the door by their parents to make their own way in the world. Care leavers are no different.”
Last night both Norfolk and Suffolk county councils said they were committed to giving young people as much support as they could to become independent after leaving care.
Alison Thomas, children’s services cabinet member for Norfolk, said during a recent conference she had been taken by Mr Timpson’s direct experience of children in care and his passion for improving outcomes for them, but added: “Fortunately, some of the experiences he describes of looked after children I don’t recognise in Norfolk and, indeed, I intend to invite Mr Timpson to come and see the great work being done here to support looked after children and young people in Norfolk.”
The children’s minister said that all councils should award teenagers a minimum £2,000 grant to cover the cost of setting up a new life outside care and warned that he would consider setting a national rate if they “did not make more progress”.
But Norfolk and Suffolk county councils said they were already providing plenty of financial help.
In Norfolk, young people receive a grant of £1,000 to pay for equipment and furnishings in a new home but can also get additional support to help with rent and damage deposits.
Graham Newman, Suffolk’s cabinet member for education and young people, said: “This year we have increased the care leaver’s grant by nearly 15pc, resulting in care leavers being given £1,350 to help them get set up independently.
“This is in addition to a twice-annual clothing allowance together with birthday and Christmas grants, bringing the financial support for care leavers very close to Edward Timpson’s suggested £2,000.”