Making a difference for care leavers in Kirklees

Helping care leavers find their next opportunity.

Careers advice shouldn’t stop when a young person leaves school. People benefit from our support at any age, and in all kinds of circumstances.

Our role is to find someone their next opportunity, be it training, education or employment. We work with people and to set and achieve career goals, acknowledging a person’s unique circumstances and tackling any potential barriers.

To share how we do this, we’ve caught up with some of the C+K team to hear how they reach people. Here, Richard Dickinson shares his experience working with care leavers.

A joined up and personal approach

To support young people leaving care, I champion and represent them with other agencies, colleges, training providers and employers. I make sure that young people’s lived experiences are heard.

My approach is a mix of challenge, support, diplomacy, and straight talk. I am always calm and clear in my communication to ensure a good outcome for the young person.

As a careers adviser (CA), I help young people access a range of services including information, advice, and guidance around preparation for learning and employment.

In October 2021, there were 283 young people between the ages of 18 and 25 who were the responsibility of Kirklees Council Leaving Care Services. Each of these young people works with a personal adviser, social workers, and other specialist staff.


What’s the outlook for care leavers?

Care leavers make up less than 1% of the population, and yet 25% of adult prisoners were previously in care2. The National Audit Office (NAO) identified that within the first two years of leaving care, one third of care leavers become homeless.

It was reported1 in 2019 that 63% of children in care in England were there due to abuse or neglect which has a significant impact on mental health and wellbeing. A 2012 Department of Health study found care leavers four to five times more likely to self-harm in adulthood.

Care leavers are more likely to be not in education, employment, or training (NEET) than the rest of the population. Nationally, 9 months after leaving compulsory education, 9% of Year 11 Leavers are NEET compared to 32% of looked after children3. Of care leavers aged 19-21, 39% were NEET in 2019 compared with the national average of 13%1.


Working across services to provide value

These statistics show the challenges that care leavers face. In Kirklees, our services work together to provide a quality “local offer” to our care leavers. Being a careers adviser to these young people can be challenging, but it is also very rewarding.


The work

Of the young people who are the responsibility of Kirklees LA, 129 are living independently, 69 of these are NEET (Kirklees Council Statistics).

Being a care leaver is challenging, especially so for care leavers who live independently. No two individuals leaving care have the same set of experiences or challenges.

We speak to young people who are engaged with services, are self-motivated and set out in pursuit of their goals. They only need minor input from us, on occasion. We also support individuals for whom getting up and attending an appointment is a massive achievement.


Adapting my practice to each young person

How do we reach care leavers?

  • Build trusted relationships
  • Regularly attend care leaver drop-ins
  • Provide one to one, dedicated support
  • Meet where a young person feels comfortable
  • Encourage young people to set career goals
  • Provide ongoing support to achieve their goals
  • Collaborate across services and professionals for consistency
  • Recognise when goals are met – however small or large

Initially, when I meet a young person, we choose a venue where they feel comfortable. Often this is their home or at one of our care leaver drop-ins, which I regularly attend. My presence at these drop-ins helps to build trust so that when help or careers advice is needed, there is a familiar face on hand to support.

A key part of my role is coaching and encouraging young people to achieve their goals and helping them to keep on track. Whether it is a small goal, or a massive step, recognition and encouragement can make a massive difference to their journeys.

I work one to one with a young person, alongside other agents and agencies. Communication is key to ensuring the best level of support is provided. Each young person has a personal adviser who has a statutory responsibility to see them every eight weeks.

Consistent messaging across sources and services

We can’t control the information that young people get from other sources, but the personal adviser and I can provide clear and consistent messages. We work together to support the young person’s aspirations and advise their next steps.

I attend a range of meetings representing the interests of all care leavers. These meetings aim to improve the accessibility and availability of options in learning and employment, for example, improving access to apprenticeships within Kirklees Neighbourhood Housing.


Staying on top of policy and sharing good practice

Our team research financial policies and procedures to support young people in education residing in another local authority. As part of my role, I have participated in the restructure and implementation of a new financial policy and process for Kirklees care leavers.

We attend meetings with the national care leaver benchmarking forum, sharing good practice and learning about development ideas and opportunities from other areas.


What’s the impact for young people leaving care?

Rising aspirations and results despite challenging times

In 2015, 45% of Care Leavers (18+) were NEET in September 2021. Despite the additional challenges presented by covid-19, this has reduced to 30% in Kirklees. Aspirations have risen and the number of young people in higher education has increased from 17 care leavers in 2015 to 29 in 2021. (Kirklees Council Statistics)

Our results show the positive impact a personalised and joined up approach has on a young person’s journey. By getting to know a young person, we build trust and can better understand their circumstances. Celebrating the successes – however small – builds confidence in a young person and our ongoing support keeps up momentum.

Working with other agencies and professionals enables us to provide the consistency young people need and prevents information from through the cracks. This approach has enabled us to establish a quality “local offer” for our care leavers.

1. Department for Education. (2019). Children looked after in England (including adoption) available here
2. Ministry of Justice (2012) Prisoners’ childhood and family backgrounds, available here.
3. Scottish Government. (2019). Education Outcomes for Looked After Children – 2019/20, available here.


Helping care leavers find their next opportunity

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