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Care leavers’ further and higher education opportunities damaged by the whims of localism, says report

The Who Cares? Trust calls for Government to provide centrally directed support

Research published by The Who Cares? Trust reveals that key Government policies intended to support looked-after children's participation in further and higher education are failing to make an impact because a fragmentary, localist approach has confused young people and the professionals who work with them.

The report, Open Doors, Open Minds, found evidence that while three recent Government policies – the Pupil Premium, 16-19 bursary and new tuition fee arrangements – have theoretically delivered more financial support for looked-after children and care leavers, the Government has not sufficiently helped young people and those advising them to understand this.  The implementation of these schemes has been left to local bodies (schools, colleges or universities), who were given too little guidance and are subject to minimal central scrutiny of how they spend the money. This has resulted in a wide variety of practice and a confusing picture on the ground – meaning that many young people in care are missing out on what they're entitled to, the report says.

Open Doors, Open Minds calls for greater clarity and information about funding for further and higher education for young people and those who work with them. It appeals for the Government to abandon its localist approach to funding for looked-after children and care leavers and instead to provide centrally directed consistency. This should involve strengthening guidance and the collection of better data on the progress of looked-after children and care leavers in further and higher education, the report says.

Commenting on the findings of the report, Natasha Finlayson, Chief Executive of The Who Cares? Trust, said:

"This research has confirmed that care leavers still face real challenges getting into college and university. The Government has brought in a range of policies that aim to help open up opportunities for these young people, but unfortunately a misplaced determination to leave everything to individual schools, colleges and universities has undermined their efforts, exacerbated the postcode lottery of care and created new barriers to learning.

"We want to see swift action to ensure that the additional resources in the system are put to effective use so that being in care doesn't mean failing in education."

You can download the full report here.