Capstone Care Leavers Trust Bridges The Gap
Growing up and leaving home can be a difficult time for any young person, even if they have led a privileged life from the moment of birth. For young people who have been in care, they have had the extra burden of having had their lives disrupted on the road to be an adult.
Having been removed from their family home can easily make them feel like they are being punished. It can be felt as a disruption from the only life they have known even though their family home puts them at risk. The reality is that local authority care in the UK is all about having their life chances enhanced. A local authority doesn’t take children into care unless there is a compelling reason. More on that in a moment.
Once the child is taken into care, he or she is placed with a foster family and all efforts are made to embrace the child in a safe and caring environment. The foster carer is part of a larger network focused on providing all possible opportunities for the children and young people who need the safety net of a loving home.
Suppose all goes well, as planned, and the young person turns 18 – and in some cases they’re just turning 16. The young person is on the brink of his or her adult life. It’s commonly referred to as ageing out of care as the foster child becomes a care leaver. They leave foster care and proceed to whatever their first step in life on their own happens to be. What happens then?
Capstone Care Leavers Trust (CCLT)
Programs such as the Capstone Care Leavers Trust (CCLT) help bridge the gap between leaving care and becoming a fulfilled and successful adult. CCLT awards grants to people aged 17-25 years who have been in care and are in need. The CCLT also offers advice and guidance to young people to help reduce their experience of social exclusion and improve their life chances.
Historically, the Capstone Foster Care group has donated to charities that work to assist disadvantaged young people and help them get a good solid start in adult life. The creation of Capstone Care Leavers Trust has enabled young people who have been in local authority care to benefit from financial support not available elsewhere.
Many young people who have been in care, either in local authority foster care placements or in children’s homes, are expected to live independently from as young as 16 years old. They do not have access to the same financial and family support systems that most young people experience, being able to continue living in the parental home as young adults. The typical leaving home age is 24.
So many care leavers begin their adult lives with no family support at all, no one to rely on, and minimal financial resources.
CCLT in Action
This is where CCLT comes into play. The Capstone Care Leavers Trust awards grants for further and higher education courses, training courses, purchasing laptops, transportation costs to get to their study and training courses, driving lessons, the practical driving test, and for the purchase of household items such as a sofa, chairs, cooker, fridge, freezer, washing machine, bed, wardrobe, and drawers. CCLT may be able to assist with the costs of starting work, or paying for uniforms or work clothes that are not paid for by the employer.
CCLT does not intend to replace grants, funding, or any other types of financial support and services available to care leavers from statutory, or voluntary organisations. It is expected that these areas of support have been thoroughly explored before CCLT will consider an application for a grant.
CCLT monitors the outcomes of grants made. Here’s what some care leavers had to say about the program:
“Capstone has supported me in one of the most critical stages of a foster child’s life. Settling into their own home. They funded my flooring and gave me a new laptop to use for uni. Through them doing this I now don’t have to worry about how I will pay to put flooring in my flat. It’s now cosy and feels like my own home. Thank you Capstone!”
“This has provided me with books that have given me essential knowledge that will help me carry out further research in the specific field of criminology. It will also help me within my career as I will be able to produce more reliable research based interventions to help solve the most complex problems in society.”
“I believe Capstone can help many other young people who may need assistance especially during vulnerable periods in their life where they cannot support themselves to achieve their full potential.”
“Capstone were not only supportive in providing me a bed but were willing to let me use them as a sounding and advice board which was extremely helpful. They were quick in responding and active in ensuring my needs were met.”
“I now have a properly functioning laptop which means whenever I work, I’m not in constant fear of mine overheating and losing my work. I don’t have to copy and paste keys that don’t work any more and I can actually see the screen. I can now work on documents without too much faff which is going to make my degree slightly easier!”
These are the type of assistance that CCLT offers. Some people might tend to take a good bed for granted and to think that all students can afford a functioning laptop. These people probably have a family and support system that they can turn to in times of financial difficulty. CCLT is Capstone’s effort to compensate for the fact that care leavers do not always have this strong birth family network.
CCLT was established in 2013 and it continued efforts that Capstone Foster Care had been making over the years to help disadvantaged youth in the UK transition into adulthood. Before CCLT, Capstone helped by donating to a charity or a volunteer organisation. CCLT removes the arm’s length factor of the donation to a charity or volunteer organisation by being its own charity.
Getting Placed in Care
This is how foster care placement works. When a local authority is called in to assess a child’s situation, they determine the child’s category of need for foster care. The reasons for a local authority to remove a child from his or her family home are abuse or neglect, the child’s disability, the parent’s illness or disability, the family is in acute stress, family dysfunction, socially unacceptable behaviour, low income, and absent parenting.
The majority (approximately 60%) of the children in care are there because of abuse or neglect. Family dysfunction is the next highest reason (about 16%). Foster care involves providing a substitute home for the children taken into care. It’s not unusual for some foster parents to stay in the foster children’s lives after they have aged out of the system.
The reality is that it is also not uncommon for foster children to be moved into and out of foster care. It’s part of the way that the system works that local authorities continue to monitor the family situation to ascertain if it is possible for the children to be returned to their birth family. In an ideal situation, this would be the outcome.
In cases such as this, it is possible that the child returns home and the old dysfunction or abuse reoccurs and the child is returned to foster care, but not to the same foster home. It is also possible that a child in care can be relocated to another foster home. There are many scenarios that can disrupt the continuity of a child’s placement with specific foster families.
Regardless of the reasons for being moved from one placement to another, often the result is that when the child ages out of the fostering system, he or she is on their own when it comes to having a family unit.
One goal of foster care is to provide for positive outcomes in adulthood. The reality is not always positive. Some statistics reveal that more than a quarter of the prison population have been in care. This figure refers to those inmates in adult prisons. When you look at inmates under the age of 21, the percentage who have been in care is closer to 40%. Another sad fact is that 70% of female prostitutes were in care.
In an effort to help young people transition into independent living while there is funding available to them, some foster kids are transitioned out of care when they are as young as 16. About 10,000 young people age out of care annually. About one-third of these are 16 or 17 years old.
Local authorities, which are the decision makers about who is in care, encourage the earlier age for the transition. The reason for this is that there is money available to help with their living expenses such as rent and support for the other necessities of life until they are 18.
Local councils are mandated to provide support until the person reaches the age of 21 and up to age 25 for those who are still in school. The support once the young person is over the age of 18 tends to be in the form of help and advice. Although fostering ends at the age of 18, the council is expected to provide the care leaver with a personal plan, a Pathway Plan, for going forward.
The Pathway Plan details what will happen about the care leaver’s health, education, training and development, contact with family, and financial management. It is reviewed at least every 6 months, if the leaver asks for a review, or if the personal adviser or the council asks for one.
Designing the Pathway Plan entails a statutory review meeting to discuss the leaver’s future and a personal adviser who is available for guidance after leaving care. If the care leaver is 16 or 17, a roof over the young person’s head and sufficient money is provided until they are 18.
At the statutory review meeting, topics of discussion include where the care leaver plans to live, whether he or she is going to work, get training, or continue to be in school. At the meeting, there is the care leaver, an adult of his or her choosing who can act as an advocate for the leaver, the leaver’s social worker, the foster carers, other support people such as a representative from the leaver’s school, and an independent reviewing officer.
The government through the local council tries to make the transition as painless as possible. For care leavers who continue in school full-time and are between the ages of 16 and 19, there is a bursary of £1,200 a year. For those who continue to higher education, there is the possibility of a higher education bursary of £2,000 from the local council. There is also at least £2,000 available to help the care leaver get established in their own home.
Getting a CCLT Grant
CCLT grants are not a replacement source for grants and other funding for care leavers from statutory or voluntary organisations. These are considered to be the first line of support. When there is no support, or the support is not sufficient, from these organisations, CCLT can provide assistance. A recipient of a CCLT grant is eligible to reapply after 12 months.
Previous recipients praise CCLT’s process. They were “Really helpful and quick, take a lot into account and are very fair and generous. Staff were very friendly and easy to talk to, very understanding and dedicated to helping me.” And CCLT was “Very helpful, friendly and quick. This is a brilliant charity and I’m so glad I applied!”
If an application is unsuccessful because the Trust lacked sufficient funds when the application was made or because the application lacked sufficient information, or if there is a change in the care leaver’s circumstances, the applicant may re-apply without waiting 12 months.
There are a couple of stipulations to a grant. One is that the grant is for the care leaver’s use only and the care leaver must be contacted within 4 weeks of a grant being agreed. This means that care leavers must keep Capstone appraised of any change to their contact details.
The grants, which are typically for amounts between £300 and £2,000, are usually paid direct to the supplier of the goods or services. If there are exceptional circumstances, the grant can be paid direct to the leaver’s nominated bank account.
CCLT has three trustees and any two of them can authorise grants up to £1000. It takes all three to authorise awards over £1000. The maximum grant considered is £3000 and this is in relation to higher education fees.
Sometimes, it is something as simple as having a decent bed to sleep in that makes all the difference in a young person’s life. That’s the type of help that CCLT provides.
For further information, please visit www.capstonecareleaverstrust.org or call us on 0121 374 2601.