Tackling some of the challenges care-experienced young people face in accessing welfare support

Leicestershire Cares met with Jon Ashworth MP, Shadow Secretary for Work and Pensions

For many years, Leicestershire Cares has worked with care leavers, local councils, businesses, and the community to support care experienced young people gain stability and happiness in their lives. Their current campaign builds on their successes and aims to change welfare policy to tackle some of the challenges young people face in accessing Universal Credit and other welfare support.

Each year hundreds of young people have to apply for Universal Credit at the same time as moving out of care and into independent living. This means they struggle financially while they wait the five weeks for their first payment, as most do not have family to rely on for help.

Other challenges include managing monthly payments (rather than weekly) to avoid getting into arrears or debt; managing a home on the under-25 rate for Universal Credit; and having to explain their situation multiple different times to different work coaches. Care leavers are also three times more likely to be sanctioned than other claimants.

Leicestershire Cares met with Luke Evans MP

Leicestershire Cares is working with a group of its young people on a project led by Learning and Work Institute, to raise awareness of these issues and persuade local MPs, local authorities, and Jobcentres to make changes to improve the situation.

Together with Learning and Work Institute, they have developed six key policy asks that we want to see implemented for care leavers:

  1. A designated lead at every Jobcentre Plus, focused on care leavers
  2. Introduction of a system ‘marker’ for care leavers when they enter the welfare system
  3. All care leavers should be entitled to the over-25s rate in Universal Credit
  4. Right to advanced payment grant (not loan) so you don’t have to pay this back
  5. Clear step by step escalation protocol for applying sanctions, so care leavers can’t get sanctioned without their PA being consulted first
  6. All care leavers should be exempt from paying council tax, up to the age of 25

You can listen to young people talk about the issues in their brand new episode of Fostering a New Approach, their care-experienced podcast.

So far, their young people have met with local MPs, councillors and children’s services staff at both Leicester City and Leicestershire County Councils to build consensus and support for their policy asks across the local political parties.

A version of this post was previously published at Leicestershire Cares.