LOOKED-AFTER Staffordshire youngsters taking their first steps towards independence are being given more support during the current Covid-19 crisis.
Young people who have left Staffordshire County Council’s care network are currently receiving additional help, while those who were scheduled to become semi-independent in recent weeks are being funded to stay where they are until the situation improves.
Mark Sutton, Staffordshire County Council’s cabinet member for Children and Young People, said: "If it is safe to do so, we always strive to keep children and young people with their families, but there are occasions when it’s in their best interests to be fostered.
"These have been vulnerable children, often growing up in difficult circumstances, and when the time comes for them to take their first steps in the adult world we offer as much support as we can to make that transition at what can be a difficult and confusing time.
"The current crisis is putting pressure on all of us and we know it’s having a big effect on our care leavers so it’s essential we do what we can to help and support these young people who may have few others to turn to.”
Those who have already left the county council’s care are receiving increased contact from their personal advisors, with physical visits paid if needed and food parcels provided where necessary.
Usually young people leaving Staffordshire County Council’s care network at 18 take their first steps into housing association properties.
With much housing association work suspended and housing authorities providing extra accommodation to rough sleepers and other at-risk groups at the moment, the county council has decided to carry on funding care leavers in their current placements during the Covid-19 crisis rather than allow them to move to inappropriate accommodation.
The county council is also coordinating with the Department of Work and Pensions during the crisis to find extended paid work placements for care leavers in DWP offices.
Coun Sutton added: "We are doing all we can to help our care leavers; emotionally, financially and practically so that not only can they cope with the isolation and problems of the current crisis, but they make the most of the opportunities available to start taking the next steps with their lives.”