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Making financial education relevant for care leavers

Jonathan Whalley St Christopher's Chief ExecutiveSt Christopher’s has given evidence to an All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) enquiry into financial education for young people in care so that MPs and organisations can work together to introduce better support.

Chief Executive Jonathan Whalley was invited to give evidence directly to the MPs involved in the APPG about how to make sure care leavers had opportunities to learn how to budget, manage their money and a safe space to trial new things.

At St Christopher’s we are committed to raising aspirations for care leavers and offering lifelong learning and thriving, instead of leaving young people to go it alone once they reach a certain age. Through our Staying Close pilot, young people have opportunities to go back to their children’s homes so that they can stay in touch with the people they care about the most. This commitment was central to the evidence we provided, as we know from our young people that having just one key person who is on your side can make all the difference.

In answer to MPs questions Jonathan explained how leaving care was a process rather than a single event in a child’s life. He explained how starting transitions work sooner would provide care leavers with a better foundation for adulthood, which includes learning about budgeting and money management.

He also explained how mental health issues can impact on young people’s ability to cope with living independently at such a young age. This led onto a discussion about corporate parenting responsibilities, where providers and local authorities commit to providing children in care and care leavers with the same love, support and nurturing as any other young person.

Jonathan also shared examples of current best practice for financial education in our services. For example, one care leaver on the Isle of Man had racked up £150 in bank fees from being only a few pounds overdrawn. He did not have the confidence to speak up for himself and ask the bank to waive these, so a member of the Aftercare team advocated on his behalf. Without this support from a person he trusted, this young person would have spiralled into debt and homelessness, showing just how important relationships are to care leavers.

We know that it is important to give young people in our care a safe environment for them to try new things and make mistakes. In our homes, this happens through daily practice as well as our life skills work. If all children in care were given this space and trust, it would allow them to develop their own risk competencies and give them practical experience to draw on when they faced challenges in adulthood.

The event gave us the chance to educate MPs on what life is like for children in care and care leavers, as well as fight to get them the right support. We are looking forward to reading their recommendations in the coming months.