Growing up in care ‘should be a protected characteristic’ under Equality Act

Writing in The Telegraph, Mr MacAlister called on companies ‘to play their part’ in helping care leavers who lack a family support network and to eliminate nepotism when hiring by working with councils to providing mentorship, internships and training opportunities.

“It is now up to the government to decide whether it wants to keep pouring money into a leaky bucket that is yielding bad results or invest in reforms that control spending and, more importantly, help children and families,” he said.

In response to the review, the government did not immediately commit to most recommendations, but said they would be considered over the longer term. However, an insider from the Equalities Office said that at present there are no plans to review the Equality Act or the protected features it contains.

Nadhim Zahawi, education secretary, said the government was up to the challenge and will release plans for “bold and ambitious change” in the coming months.

A government spokesperson said: ‘This report will be essential in advancing our ambition to ensure that every child has a loving and stable home, and we will continue to work with experts and people who have experience of caring for make changes on the ground. We will outline our plans for bold and ambitious change in the months ahead. »


We need employers to step up and create well-supported programs for care leavers

By Josh MacAlister, chief executive of social work charity Frontline

Aunt Sarah might have heard there was a job in her office or Uncle Mo might point out an apprenticeship program at his engineering company. This is how families work, but what about young people who start life without a family network? About 13,000 young people leave the English healthcare system each year. For too many people, their 18th or 21st birthday is a cliff edge when the state slips away.

I have spent the last 15 months chairing the Independent Child Welfare Review. It was a privilege to hear from children and young people still in care and from adults who have had time to reflect on the impact growing up in care has had on their lives.

Today I set out ambitious plans to reform child welfare in England. It is now up to the government to decide whether to continue pouring money into a leaky bucket that is yielding poor results or to invest in reforms that control spending and, more importantly, help children and families.

While waiting for their full response, there is a lot we can do as a society. One area where we can act is that of employment. While 12% of 19-21 year olds are not in employment, education or training, this figure rises to 41% among people leaving care at the age of 19-21.

Business can’t solve all of society’s ills, but it can play an important role in helping young people who don’t have Aunt Sarah or Uncle Mo to help them get ahead in life.

What might this look like in practice? Companies could partner with great charities like Drive Forward or join the Care Leavers Covenant – which I recommend should be elevated to the same status as the Armed Forces Covenant. Employers could work directly with councils to provide mentoring, internships or training opportunities or provide tailored staff support and pathways to leadership positions.

So that businesses and the public sector can take into account that these young people have been through so much at such a young age, I recommended that the care experience become a protected characteristic.

Many employers are already doing this type of work by creating bespoke apprenticeship and internship programs. Last year, led by Dame Sharon White, John Lewis made it clear that it wanted to hire people with experience in care and help them gain skills and experience.

As I undertook the review, I saw the power of the Public Service Leavers Internship Program. What we need now is more employers to step up and create well-supported programs. It’s a double win because it supports young people to whom we all have an obligation and it’s smart business because it helps employers access the unique contributions and experiences of those who have been supported. .

On Monday, I’m calling on more businesses to play their part, to step up for children and young people and provide them with the path to employment they may not get through family and friends.

About Antoine L. Cassell

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