People leaving care could be given special priority when applying for Northumberland County Council jobs

People leaving the children's care system could be given preference for jobs with Northumberland County Council under plans to improve their employment prospects.

Thursday, 2nd September 2021, 4:55 pm
People leaving the care system could be given priority over others when applying for work with the county council.

Improving job opportunities for care leavers was identified as a key priority for social workers in the county, following a damning Ofsted inspection in 2016.

Services have improved since then, but chiefs have insisted they are committed to doing even more to ensure their former wards can be independent once they leave the system.

“[One of the things I’m very keen on] is how the council and its corporate arms can tweak their HR, recruitment and apprenticeship processes so they are slanted towards favouring some of our own care leavers,” said Guy Renner-Thompson, Northumberland County Council’s cabinet member for children and young people.

“Obviously you’re limited, from a legal perspective, on how you can favour different groups of people.

“But if we can find a way where we can say, if you’re a care leaver you automatically get first dibs on a job at Northumberland County Council, that is a way that we can help improve their lives.”

After a 2016 Ofsted inspection, the county received a ‘requires Improvement’ instruction from the education watchdog.

Treatment of those leaving the care system was highlighted, claiming ‘too many older care leavers are not in education or training and fail to secure employment’.

By 2020 however, improvements had seen the department’s performance improve enough to warrant a ‘good’ rating, with assessors finding care leavers had the skills to live independently and find suitable accommodation.

But concerns remain about the number of ‘older care leavers’, aged between 19 – 21, who are not in education, employment or training, ‘despite the persistent efforts’ of social workers.

Graham Reiter, the council’s service director for children’s social care, said: “I’ve been going around my colleagues, getting them to promise what they can offer to adults and children after leaving care.

“The exemplar is our fire service, which is offering a range of mentoring, work experience, apprenticeships and support.

“We’ve got to work out and monitor the effectiveness of that, but we’ve had that replicated across a range of council services as well.

“The question we always ask is, is this good enough for your child?”