Care leavers' experiences of the welfare system

Findings and recommendations

With the support of Lloyds Bank Foundation, Learning and Work Institute has been working together with young people from Leicestershire Cares, Drive Forward and Homes2Inspire to understand care leavers’ experiences of the welfare system and develop policy recommendations.

We launched this project recognising an acute need for change in support services for care experienced young people: in 2021, 41% of care experienced young people were not in education, employment or training (NEET) – this is around three times higher than for all young people. Being NEET during key transition years can have a long-term scarring effect throughout a young person’s life. Research also shows that they are three times more likely to be sanctioned compared to other claimants, suggesting that the right support isn’t in place.

Too many young care leavers aren’t able to achieve their potential in education and gain secure employment. Our project focusses on improving support within the welfare system, enabling care leavers who claim out of work benefits to achieve better outcomes, and explores how young people on Universal Credit can be supported to progress within employment to improve life chances once in work.

Together with a group of around 10 young people, we identified six policy asks.

  1. A designated lead or champion at every Jobcentre Plus or local Youth Hub, focused on care leavers
  2. Improving transparency: Introduction of a UC ‘marker’ for care leavers and coordinating information for care leavers on
  3. Universal Credit should be increased, with some care leavers arguing they should be entitled to the over-25s rate
  4. Increase access to more regular Universal Credit payments where appropriate and budgeting support
  5. Aim to prevent sanctions and ensure care leavers are clear about what they need to do and the process
  6. All local authorities should exempt care leavers from paying council tax or provide alternative support, up to the age of 25


Find out how Southend Jobcentre Plus is successfully tailoring its support for young care leavers

Southend Jobcentre Plus - case study

Blog: Care Leavers and the Welfare System

By Nicola Aylward, head of learning for young people
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