A young person who is “care experienced” means that they have had experience of the care system, either on a temporary or long-term basis, and includes children currently in our care, as well as “care leavers” – people who have been in care previously.
The council, and its elected members and employees, are corporate parents to all Warrington’s children in care and care leavers. Corporate parenting means that the council will always try to act in the best interests of children in care and care leavers, encourage them to express their feelings and take into account their views.
As corporate parents, the council has a responsibility to ensure that the children and young people that are in or have been in our care receive the same opportunities that we would want for our own children.
However, we know that people with care experience are more likely to face disadvantage and discrimination in society.
The Independent Review of Children’s Social Care highlighted that young people with care experience face the stigma that children are “irredeemably damaged”, which can lead to discrimination and assumptions being made.
The review heard from people who had experience of being in care. They shared their experiences of discrimination, even from a young age. The review found that the discrimination some care experienced people face is similar in nature to groups that have a legally protected characteristic under the Equality Act (2010), which currently includes age, disability, gender reassignment, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation, marriage and civil partnership.
Care leavers in Warrington have also consistently shared that they feel disadvantaged, and often feel discriminated against.
The review also highlights how making care experience a protected characteristic provides greater authority to employers, businesses, public services and policy makers to put in place policies and programmes, which promote better outcomes for care experienced people.
Adopting the position of treating care experience as a protected characteristic, the council must actively and explicitly take the needs of this cohort into account in all future policy and decision making.
One of the council’s Care Ambassadors, Jordan Clarke, said: “Being a care leaver means that a label is being assigned to us, and we are often associated with negative behaviours or outcomes.
“Having the laws changed would give us the same opportunities as those who aren't care experienced, so that we can have a successful career. But also, for the system to become fair to all, as we are as capable as anyone else, we want what makes us who we are to be protected.”
Cllr Sarah Hall, cabinet member for children’s services, said: “It’s important that people with care experience are added to our list of protected characteristics, ensuring that all future decisions are made with these young people in mind.
“We are hopeful that this will help to remove barriers that our care experienced young people have been facing.
“We are joining more than 50 local councils who have declared care experience a protected characteristic, and are hopeful that the government will follow our steps and make care experience a legally protected characteristic under the Equality Act (2010).”