DEVON County Council (DCC) have agreed to give care leavers – young people who have been in the care of the local authority – protected characteristic status.

It’s recognition that young people’s experience of being in the care system can be a potential source of discrimination similar to other protected characteristics such as race or disability.

A Notice of Motion put to members of the council on Thursday, September 7, made the case.

It said that a study has shown that 70 per cent of care experienced people die early; that more than half of the people who are in custody up to the age of 21 years old have been in care; and that a quarter of the homeless population is care experienced.

An independent national review of children’s social care has also recommended making care experience an additional protected characteristic.

County Councillors unanimously supported the Motion, which means that the authority will do more to ensure that care experienced young people are not discriminated against.

It means, for example, that we will make sure that the experiences of young people in care and care leavers will be considered in all of its decisions.  But it is also a foundation on which to develop better support across Devon as whole, not just in the services that we are responsible for. 

DCC will therefore work with partners to improve support for care experienced people in all aspects of their lives including housing and accommodation, health, employment, as well as education.

Young people with care experience attended the meeting and spoke passionately to councillors about the importance of the Notion of Motion to all children in care and people who have been in care.

'Today is literally a day in history for care experienced people in Devon,” said 18 year old care leaver, Jemeillia.

'Everyone who spoke today, we all did something amazing.

'And what we’ve done means that other young people will be able to get the opportunities that they are deserving of. It means we have a second chance, an opportunity, and that is something we can all be proud of' she added.

'Making this a protected characteristic will put us on an equal level with everyone else in society and will make life fair for us,' said care leaver, Luke, aged 19.

'I’m super happy about today’s result,” said care leaver and co-founder of Avocados Advocacy, Katie, aged 27.

'Hopefully this is the beginning changing the outcomes for those younger people who are currently coming through the system' she added.

'It’s a really positive moment,' said care leaver Teddi, aged 18.

'It’s great that we’ve finally been seen and heard' she added.

Councillor Andrew Leadbetter, Cabinet Member with responsibility for children’s services, said: 'We are grateful to hear from young people at this meeting today, and for their courage in talking to us about the reasons why this decision is important.

'As corporate parents to the children and young people in our care, and care leavers, we take those responsibilities extremely seriously, as parents should. As such, we do a lot to make sure that our children get the same opportunities, in education, employment and training, and in life generally, as other young people.

'What this decision today does, is further cement that commitment we have in supporting children in our care and care leavers.

'But it goes further than that. With this decision, we want to make sure that no child with care experience is discriminated against, and that they have every opportunity to live fulfilling and successful lives without barriers.'