On 18th October 2016, the House of Lords considered the Government’s Children and Social Work Bill at its Report Stage. The Bishop of Chester spoke in support of an amendment proposed by the Earl of Listowel aiming to improve support for care leavers.
The Lord Bishop of Chester My Lords, I add my strong support for the amendment, which was moved by the noble Earl with a mastery of succinctness and clarity across the issues he covered, backed up by the other noble Lords who spoke. There are powerful arguments for the amendment.
We have just been talking about the importance of relationship education and support. That is exactly what care leavers typically do not have—by definition, if you like. Think of the degree of support that your Lordships have had to give to your children at the age of 19 to 24 and beyond. I see some smiles on your Lordships’ faces, and I could smile myself and put a price tag on it. It does not exactly run into millions of pounds, but it feels like it.
Giving a bit of extra help to those at that stage in their lives has a great deal to be said for it. Even if it cannot be given in all four areas set out by the Children’s Society in its briefing, some, at least, should be considered very carefully—I add that it is a Church of England society. I think the work it has done here is a model of professionalism. My right reverend friend the Bishop of Durham spoke to this on Second Reading, but he cannot be here today and I am happy to pick up the baton from him.
We are dealing with a group of people who typically have very little support—support we almost assume that our own children need at that age—and is often not there, so we must help with anything we can do. Earlier, I heard the Minister say that the danger with having a minimum or national standard is that it would interfere with what is provided locally. It is not either/or; it is both/and, surely. I did hear somebody on the television just a few days ago saying there is an important role for the state. I agree with the Prime Minister on this, and I think that there is a role here for national standards and encouragement.
Wonder of wonders, Cheshire East has been mentioned. It is a Conservative-run authority, blazing a trail, but should we leave it to a postcode lottery so that some authorities do this and some do not? That is very discouraging if you see it in those terms. While this is led by local authorities and a local offer, it does seem to me there is a strong reason for having a certain degree of national offer and national minimum standards. I think that is the spirit behind this amendment, and I strongly support it.
A vote took place on the amendment, proposed by the Earl of Listowel, which made four proposals. The first to provide for a reduction in the penalties attached to sanctions targeted at care leavers under the age of 25. The second to provide working tax credit for care leavers under 25, and the third to extend the current exemption from the shared accommodation rate for housing benefit for care leavers from 22 to 24. The fourth to provide an exemption from council tax for care leavers under 25.
Contents: 179 | Not Contents: 187 | Result: Amendment rejected / Government Win