There are currently 70,440 children in the care of local authorities in England and every year around 10,000 young people leave care. These young people are some of the most vulnerable in society and, with their outcomes still incredibly bleak in comparison to their peers, there needs to be greater support to improve the life chances of those in or leaving care.
Charities play a vital role in the care system, and we think there is a real opportunity for philanthropy to boost the work of this sector. We recently launched In your care? The role of philanthropy for children in care and care leavers, which explores how funders can make a difference in this complex area. Prioritising need is difficult. But through this research we sought to outline various issues and provide examples of the type of work funders can support to help tackle them. In particular, we think funders can help by:
- Working to support the delivery of services: Some funders may be reluctant to work hand-in-hand with the state. But since the state is directly accountable for the care of many of these children we believe it is a valuable way to fund this area. An example of a charity delivering services in collaboration with the state is Leap Confronting Conflict. It has launched a 3 year pilot programme working with children in care homes and their carers to tackle conflict, improve relationships and build emotional resilience. Other charities providing additional services include The Big House and Drive Forward Foundation, which both offer mentoring opportunities that provide children in/leaving care with positive role models.
- Financing innovation: Funders have the flexibility to find innovative ways of improving the current system, by piloting new techniques and helping to build the evidence base of ‘what works’. An example of this comes from the KPMG Foundation, which part funded a pilot programme to train foster carers in social pedagogy across local authorities. Bringing the technique over from Europe, this funding allowed the impact of this approach to be tested. Post pilot, the majority of local authorities involved continued the approach in-house.
- Campaigning and influencing policy: Funders can work to improve the system through raising awareness of the many issues that children in/leaving care face. There are many charities campaigning and advocating for looked-after children and care leavers, including Become, Coram Voice, Action for Children and Adoption UK. It takes time, and it may not be easy to attribute impact to your work. But funding society or policy level work has the potential to create change for a large number of young people.
All of those with whom we spoke during this research—including funders, charities local authorities and academics—agreed that consulting those in or leaving care when making decisions that affect them will lead to better outcomes. Trafford Council’s care leaving services, for example, were designed with the needs of care leavers at the forefront. Theirs was the first in the country to receive an Ofsted rating of ‘outstanding’. Similarly, collaboration in both learning and delivery—between individuals, charities, trusts and foundations and the state—was highlighted as vital. Doing so enables the sector to effectively address the distinct challenges that these young people face.