February 18th marks Global Care Day – a celebration for the rights of children and young people with care experience.
At Cartridges Law in Exeter, many of our lawyers are used to working in and alongside the care system. We want to ensure that all young people in care know their rights, and that those responsible for their welfare can support them appropriately. We know that life doesn’t always work out the way that we plan it, but with the right support and help young people really can achieve what they want to.
Just because a care leaver has turned 18, does not mean that they’re suddenly on their own – indeed, care leavers are entitled to a personal adviser until they turn 25. Under The Children Act 1989 (CA89), Local Authorities must ‘advise, assist and befriend children’ with a view to promoting their welfare when they leave care. Local authorities have a duty to create a pathway plan and review that plan regularly, and they have a duty to support them in finding suitable accommodation, managing their living costs, and accessing education and employment.
As well as support with living costs and accommodation, young people can also access bursaries towards further education (£1,200 per year) and higher education (£2,000 per year). Here in Devon, young people can also access a further £60 per week whilst at university to help with living, equipment, and material costs. It’s worth looking at different institutions to see what additional support they provide care leavers. Our closest university, the University of Exeter, waives the entire course fees for care leavers and provides a bursary for living costs during the long summer break.
Care leavers who are looking for employment, can look at opportunities advertised on the Care Leavers Covenant, which is where organisations offer placements and apprenticeship programmes. Anybody looking to gain skills and experiences can also access Devon County Council’s Step Forward programme, which aims to help them to reach their career goals. And the newly-formed Youth Hub Devon offers free and impartial advice and guidance for anybody between the ages of 16-24 looking for work or training opportunities.
Care leavers who are interested in becoming lawyers in England and Wales are able to qualify as a Cilex lawyer by completing legal courses part-time whilst working for a law firm. There are also solicitor apprenticeships available, where somebody would have the opportunity to work for a firm and study one day a week to work towards your qualification. These apprenticeships are likely to be more popular with recent changes to the solicitor qualification that came in during 2021.
Local authorities must publish a ‘Local Offer to Care Leavers’ which outlines the support and services that they are able to offer to care leavers. Devon County Council’s can be found here:
At Cartridges Law, we want to ensure that all care leavers have access to the right advice and guidance. If you would like to speak to one of our family law solicitors, please get in touch at 01392 256854 or email email@example.com