Young people leaving the care system in Lancashire are to be given more financial support to help them get started on the next stage of their lives.
Lancashire County Council’s cabinet has approved increases to a series of allowances which young people receive when setting up their own home after previously living in care. It is estimated that the changes will require an extra £170,000 investment by the authority.
Members heard that the increases were being implemented following feedback from care leavers about the “financial challenges” they face.
One-off payments to help furnish accommodation will go from a current flat rate of £2,050 to £2,250 for a young person up to the age of 25 entering a privately rented property – or £2,450 for somebody going into the social rented sector. The difference is due to the fact that properties provided by social landlords may lack some furniture which is usually found in the private sector – like carpets and curtains.
A 20 per cent housing allowance top-up will also be introduced to allow young people to secure suitable accommodation within their existing local community – where higher rent charges could otherwise prevent them from being able to continue living in that area. The extra money will be allocated after an assessment of the young person’s needs.
A weekly allowance of £21 to help with education and employment costs will increase to £25. Meanwhile, care leavers will receive payments of £25 on their 19th and 20th birthdays, events which have previously gone unrecognised by the authority. Until now, young people leaving care have received £50 only on their 17th, 18th and 21st birthdays.
“It’s absolutely vital that we do all we can to help our children when they leave our care,” Lancashire County Council leader, Geoff Driver, told the cabinet meeting.
“It seems a little thing in itself, but it’s really important that we give a birthday payment for 19th and 20th birthdays as well, just to demonstrate that we are doing our best for the children formerly in our care,” he said.
REVISED PAYMENTS FOR FOSTER CARERS
Allowances are to change for foster carers in Lancashire who agree to allow young people in their care to remain living with them beyond the age of 18.
Cabinet members approved a proposal to increase the current £222 per week payment by £26.10 in the first year after a foster child turns 18. But allowances in the subsequent two years will be reduced by £31.40 per week.
Foster carers who have already signed up to the so-called “Staying Put” arrangements will be able to choose whether to continue to receive the current rates or move to the new system.
In December 2018, there were 66 young people who had decided to live with their foster carers after turning 18.