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Government sets out council ‘corporate parent’ responsibilities for care leavers

Local authorities’ obligation to act as a ‘corporate parent’ for children in care and support care leavers has been set out in a new strategy.

Under the new strategy, the government will set out in law for the first time what it means for a local authority to be a good corporate parent.

Councils will also have a legal duty to consult on and publish information about services for care leavers and ensure that all care leavers can see a personal adviser up to the age of 25.

In his introduction to the proposals, Edward Timpson, the minister for children and families, said: “This strategy calls for a revolution in the way that we think about supporting young people coming out of care.

“It asks local and central government to up their game as corporate parents, using the level of support that we expect a reasonable parent to provide for their child as the benchmark for how they should approach their role. And it provides a call to arms for wider society to better support care leavers.”

The corporate parent duty will apply, not just to children’s services, but to areas such as housing and leisure, requiring them to promote their best interests, help them to make the best use of local authority services, and promote the best possible outcomes for them.

The strategy says that good care leaver policies are already in place at a number of local authorities.

For example, in Trafford care leavers have ring-fenced apprenticeship opportunities and free access to leisure services. Similarly, North Somerset has provided care leavers with exemption from council tax until the age of 22.

The government also promised a number of national measures to support care leavers, including meeting their training costs for apprenticeships up to the age of 25, guaranteeing them a place on the National Citizen Service, and exempting them from changes to housing eligibility in Universal Credit benefits.

It said it will continue to fund local authorities to support ‘Staying Put’ arrangements for care leavers, and increase the funding they receive for supporting former unaccompanied asylum seeking children.

The government will also launch a voluntary care leaver covenant later this year that organisations can sign to support care leavers.

The strategy is part of a series of government initiatives to improve local authority children’s services. Earlier this week, Nicky Morgan, the education secretary, said local authorities would be encouraged to develop innovation in children’s services.

Ofsted’s annual report showed that 24% of local authority children’s services were rated inadequate, far higher than any other providers of children’s services.

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