A motion calling for Care Experience to be treated as a ‘Protected Characteristic’, was put forward by Labour councillors in November and was passed with cross party support.
Labour Councillors called for this so that future services and policies consider care experience through Equality Impact Assessments.
The Council’s Strategy and Resources committee met on 13 December to confirm how the Council can regard Care Experience as a protected characteristic, and what further work will be required to implement this. A report to the Committee noted how care experienced people face significant barriers that impact them throughout their lives.
Despite their resilience, society often does not take their needs into account. Care experienced people often face discrimination and stigma across housing, health, education, relationships, employment and in the criminal justice system. In 2021, the Government commissioned Josh MacAlister to undertake an Independent Review of Children’s Social Care. Published in May 2022, the review recommended that care experience should be treated as an additional protected characteristic.
The report also noted that making care experience a protected characteristic would provide 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.
However, the Government, decided not to take forward the recommendation.
Labour councillors were not satisfied with this outcome and have instead led the Council to implement changes locally to make care experience a ‘protected characteristic’.
Adopting and embedding this principal will mean that all council decisions must take account of the impact on care experienced people.
Speaking at the committee meeting; members of the Voice and Influence Team, comprising care experienced young people, gave members their first-hand account of the discrimination and barriers faced by care leavers. In response to their powerful testimony; Committee Chairs have invited the Voice and Influence team to meet with them to discuss how the work of committees can promote better outcomes for care experienced people.
Labour Cllr Dale , Chair of Education, Children and Families Committee, said;
‘We know that care experienced people face significant barriers which impact them throughout their lives. The Independent Review of Childrens Social Care called for care experience to be treated as a protected characteristic – but this Government refused to implement this recommendation disadvantaging thousands of young people’
‘While the government ignores them, we are listening to the voices of those young people. As corporate parents, we as councillors have the privilege and responsibility to provide the best possible care and safeguarding for the children who are looked after by us as an authority. We should be champions for the children in our care and challenge the negative attitudes and prejudice that exists in all aspects of society’.
“This will further put the voices, needs, priorities, and rights of our young people at the heart of everything we do. By adopting and embedding this principal, Sheffield City Council are furthering their support and commitment to all people with care experience.
“This will improve outcomes in many areas, such as readiness for independent living, accessing work and employability skills, building future careers and gaining experience.
“I want to thank again the amazing work of the Voice and Influence Team, comprising of care experienced young people, who made such a compelling case to the council why we should do this.
‘Now the real works starts, to turn the voices of young care experienced people into action’.