West Devon Borough Council is doing everything it can to support those in the area who are leaving care, to make sure they can prosper and live the lives that they want to live.
Earlier this month, we agreed to give a Council Tax discount for young people who have left the care system up to the age of 25. The move is designed to help care leavers make the transition to adulthood, offering a form of financial assistance that other young people may get through help from their parents.
But the tax discount is just one step that we’re taking to support care leavers living in the Borough.
We’re putting in place a programme to help support care leavers into employment. This includes offering a two to four-week paid work experience placement, reserving some apprenticeship opportunities for care leavers and offering guaranteed interviews for those meeting minimum requirements, with support available from workplace mentors.
The Council is also supporting physical health and wellbeing by offering children in care (plus a carer), and care leavers up to the age of 25 a leisure pass that offers free access to Parklands Leisure Centre in Okehampton and Meadowlands Leisure Centre in Tavistock. These passes are being offered in partnership with Fusion Lifestyle.
Yet arguably the most important issues facing young people leaving care is housing. For most young people leaving care, the pathway is straightforward, well planned and supported.
For a small proportion of individuals who present with complex additional needs, sustaining housing and engagement with support services can be very challenging.
West Devon is proud to be working in close partnership with Devon County Council and colleagues in other districts on developing a more robust and effective response to the needs of care leavers across the county.
Together we have supported a small cohort of care leavers to retain accommodation and enabled access to services to meet their support needs. This has involved a strong commitment to multi agency work, delivering housing services in a trauma informed way and demonstrating a higher level of flexibility and tolerance to meet individual need.
Our commitment to remaining engaged with these young people long term has enabled these young people to develop relationships and build trust with officers.
We are evaluating a variety of accommodation and support models, with a view to rolling out pilot projects across Devon.
Finally, we will be reviewing the support we offer to those of our employees who offer to foster or adopt children in care, in order to maximise the assistance, we offer them in what can be an emotionally challenging and time-consuming process.
Cllr Mandy Ewings, Leader of the Council, said: “I’m proud of the work that the Council is doing to support care leavers through this wide-ranging support. It should support their transition to adulthood and independence.
“The Council Tax Discount helps with finances, our collaborative approach with housing should help care leavers secure a roof over their head, and the employment and apprenticeship programme should create opportunities in the workplace.
“This programme of support for young people leaving care has received great support across the entire Council. Everyone is united in our aim to do our part to support care leavers as best we can.”