Leading children’s rights charity, NYAS (National Youth Advocacy Service) has placed care leaver support in the spotlight, after being invited to address a special meeting of The All-Party Parliamentary Group for Looked After Children and Care Leavers (APPG).

NYAS was recently asked to speak to Parliament about how young people who leave care can be better supported. The charity took part in a session designed to explore, ‘What Makes a Good Personal Advisor?’ and was represented by NYAS Senior Advocate, Alan Culley who laid out the qualities required to ensure an exemplary and consistent personal advisor service for care leavers.

Government policy requires  local authorities in England and Wales to provide personal advisors to care leavers up until they reach the age of 25.  Personal advisors act as a focal point for care leavers, ensuring that they are provided with the practical and emotional support they need to make a successful transition to adulthood and an independent life.

Research has shown that care leavers are more likely to be at risk of; poor educational outcomes, unemployment, homelessness, drug and alcohol dependency, offending and mental health issues and the UK Government has stressed its commitment to improving outcomes for the thousands of young people who leave care each year.

The All-Party Parliamentary Group for Looked After Children and Care Leavers (APPG) supports that process by working with children and young people in care, practitioners, children’s organisations and politicians to promote first-class government policy for children in care.

Speaking after his address to the APPG at the House of Commons, NYAS Senior Advocate, Alan Culley said, “This was an excellent opportunity for NYAS, as a leading proponent of vulnerable children and young people’s rights, to give an informed opinion on how young people who leave care can be better supported. As an independent advocacy service NYAS deals with a large number of issues affecting care leavers and we see a lot of instances where young people do not feel they have adequate support; they might be unaware of their personal adviser, be confused over the differing roles of social workers and personal advisers, or need help with housing issues or finances and not know where to turn, for example.

“We need to ensure that there is consistency in regard to the qualities and capabilities of personal advisors across the country, and that young care leavers are involved in any decision-making process regarding the delivery and execution of this essential service.

“It was important for us to communicate to the Group that a good personal advisor should be consistent, reliable and resourceful. They also need to treat young adults as adults and not children and, must care passionately about the future of the young people they represent. It’s essential too that they are supported fully by the local authority and receive proper training.”

Ben Twomey, NYAS Head of Policy and Research who also attended the APPG session added, “We know that the odds can be stacked up against the children and young people we work with, including care leavers, and that’s why we want to ensure their voice is heard in the corridors of power. By participating in forums like the one provided by the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Looked After Children and Care Leavers, we can influence politicians and policy-makers, and help improve the lives of the people we work with.

Alongside it’s lobbying and campaign work NYAS provides a range of services to young people in care and care leavers, including a national advocacy helpline, advocacy for children in care and those in the child protection system, participation programmes, the provision of independent visitors for children in care and representation of children in private family law.

Picture Caption (left to right) Ben Twomey, NYAS Head of Policy and Research, Alan Culley, NYAS Senior Advocate