Southwark care leavers will have ‘best career support in UK’

Katherine Johnston (31 July, 2019)

'We have many strengths too, and are often really determined and driven, but people don’t always see past the stereotype'

31187l-r Anne-Marie Canning, Francis, Michelle, Cllr Jasmine Ali, Alasdair Smith, Gareth Evans

Care leavers in Southwark will now have some of the best education and career support offered in the country after the council and leading organisations in the borough came together with a new pledge.

Last week, Southwark’s Care Leaver Covenant was formally launched at a packed event at King’s College London.

The scheme aims to create a level playing field for young people leaving the care system who do not have the opportunities and advantages that come from having an extended family.

King’s College is a leader in this area, providing a package of support for students who have been in the care system.

This includes providing accommodation for 52 weeks a year and entry requirements that take into account the challenges faced by children in care and lack of family support.

The university’s director of social mobility and student success, Anne-Marie Canning, described the launch as ‘an important milestone’ in the borough.

It is hoped the Care Leaver Covenant will encourage many more employers and educational establishments to think about what they can do to help young people from care achieve their potential.

Francis, a Southwark care leaver who spoke of his experiences at the event, said: “There are many ways in which we, as care leavers, are pre-judged because of a lack of understanding.

“For example, people might not realise that care leavers are more likely to have mental health issues and need extra support at work.

“But we have many strengths too, and are often really determined and driven, but people don’t always see past the stereotype.

“That’s why it was so amazing to see so many people come together to launch the covenant, and find out what they can do to make a real difference to young people leaving care.”

One of King’s medical students, Michelle Sebele, who grew up in care, said: “It has been immensely inspiring to be a part of the launch of Southwark’s Care Leaver Covenant. Hearing about the aims and current partnerships in the works has been reassuring to know that the voices of care-experienced young individuals are being heard.”

Southwark Council’s cabinet member for children, schools and adult social care, Cllr Jasmine Ali, said all too often care leavers suffered a ‘double blow’.

“We know that the young people in our care have a lot to offer,” she said.

“For too long children in care have suffered a double blow, often having a difficult start to life and then not having the help they need to succeed in adulthood.

“In Southwark, we are saying this isn’t good enough, and we all need to pull together as a borough to support our care leavers.

“We are a borough filled with innovation and opportunity, and so we are asking everyone to think about what they can offer to give a young person that first step on the ladder, or a helping hand to progress in their career.”

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