The government is pledging to be a better 'parent' to children in care by handing out presents on birthdays and Christmas, giving them personal advisors, and ensuring someone is there to "shout from the side lines" on sports days, as part of a landmark £1.7m care package.
The first of its kind, the ‘Care Leavers’ Offer and Support Entitlement for Looked After Children’ has been developed using the real-life experiences of those in the care system.
Officials say that its contents were developed by asking, "Would this be good enough for my child?"
The package includes the provision of personal advisors, who will be allocated to work with children and young people from the age of 14 up to 25.
Before or shortly after their 14th birthday, all children in care will be allocated a Personal Advisor, whose role will be to help guide and support them to transition from child to young adult and ultimately move towards greater independence.
While this will involve practical support and advice, the key focus will be on developing strong and nurturing relationships.
Pictured: Young people will have the option to remain with their foster parents until they are at least 21 and in some cases to 25.
With that goal in mind, the offer and entitlement also includes a proposal to give care leavers the option to remain with their foster parents until they are at least 21 and in some cases to 25, which would put Jersey ahead of the UK, where the ‘staying put’ policy only goes up to 21.
As part of the new support arrangements, the government will fund “the everyday necessities that any loving parent would normally pay for”. This will include annual health checks, during which the child’s mental health and emotional wellbeing will also be assessed.
In a bid to improve school attendance among children in care as well as their attainment levels, the offer also includes support in education and training, with a ‘Virtual Headteacher’ monitoring progress and the appointment of a careers advisor to help children “think about their options for the future”.
The government will also fund visits to up to five potential places of study for young people and an appropriate adult, as well as tuition, accommodation costs and equipment, for those wanting to go into higher education.
Pictured: Children and young people will be given new school uniforms each year.
Children and young people will be given new school uniforms each year and the government will fund extra-curricular activities, as well as school trips and activities.
The government will also support children in care with transport with a free bus pass until they are 25, as well as funding for provisional driving licences, theory tests, one practical driving test and up to 20 driving lessons.
In addition to providing the children’s carer with money to buy clothes, shoes and other essentials, children in care will receive weekly pocket money from the age of 5 to 18. For any children who have been in care for over 12 months, a savings account will be set up so that the government can deposit a monthly sum that the child will have access to when they turn 18.
The government will also provide a present and card on birthdays and Christmas – or any other religious festivals the child might observe – as well as birthday parties or other celebrations of the child’s choosing.
Finally, they have pledged to “do our best to be a good parent” by having someone attend parents’ evenings, school assemblies or “shouting from the side lines on sports day”.
Pictured: Senator Sam Mézec, the Children and Housing Minister.
The Children and Housing Minister, Senator Sam Mézec, described the launch of the Offer and Support Entitlement as a “landmark event”.
“Meeting the needs of children in care and care leavers is a priority for the government,” he added. “Corporate parenting and supporting care leavers are areas where it is accepted that Jersey has previously failed its looked-after children.
“As a good corporate parent, we need to ensure that our children are enabled to flourish regardless of their start in life. As well as providing safe, stable and loving homes, this also means providing and supporting our children and young people to access high-quality education.
"Further, it will ensure that a full range of healthservices and leisure activities are available to them, making sure that all items that a good parent would provide are fully funded. We want to raise the aspirations of all our children and ensure they are supported to meet their potential.
“This offer is a tangible demonstration that we are delivering on our pledge to children and young people and our commitments as set out in the Government Plan.”
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