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Helping care leavers get a better deal from the welfare system

26 Jan 2022

Leicestershire Cares is pleased to be part of a national project which aims to improve welfare support for care experienced young people. Led by Learning and Work Institute, this project is working with three care leaver organisations (including Leicestershire Cares) across England to explore the challenges CEYP face in accessing welfare support, develop policy solutions, and act on these.

We have been working with three of our care experienced young people on the project. In our first session, we looked at the challenges CEYP face in accessing Universal Credit and other welfare support. The key issues we identified were:

  • How to survive while they wait for their first UC payment to be made (most of them don’t have family to rely on)
  • Managing monthly UC payments to avoid getting into arrears
  • Managing a home on the under-25 UC rate
  • Having to explain their situation multiple times to different work coaches
  • Care leavers are three times more likely to be sanctioned than other UC claimants

Some of the solutions we have come up with include:

  • Having a specialist CEYP work coach at every Jobcentre, and making sure they have the knowledge needed to support CEYP effectively
  • Having a ‘marker’ for care leavers when they enter into the welfare system, so they don't have to self-identify as care experienced every time they meet a new work coach
  • Making care leavers entitled to the over-25s rate in Universal Credit
  • Having a fast track claim process and first UC payment within 5 days
  • Ensuring that DWP staff have training and awareness raising sessions about CEYP
  • Ensuring that Personal Advisers understand CEYP's rights and entitlements in relation to welfare, so they can advocate on behalf of young people effectively

On Friday 14 February, we met with Jon Asworth MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, to discuss the challenges and solutions we had identified. The meeting was really positive and we are looking forward to working with Jon to tackle some of these issues at a national level.

Our young people are also looking forward to meeting with other MPs in Leicester and Leicestershire, as well as the Heads of Children's Services at Leicester City and Leicestershire County Councils.

We already have lots of momentum behind this campaign and hope to achieve real change for care experienced young people across the country!