Care leavers in Stockport given 'protected characteristic' status

Young people in Stockport leaving care will face less disadvantage after Stockport Council committed to make being care experienced a protected characteristic

Care leavers in Stockport given 'protected characteristic' status

Stockport Council are corporate parents to the borough’s children in care and care leavers, but “care experienced people can face significant barriers, discrimination and inequalities which impact them throughout their life and society too often does not take their needs into account,” said Councillor Wendy Meikle, Cabinet Member for Children, Families and Education for Stockport Council.

This major step forward demonstrates the importance the council places on supporting care experienced people and recognises that young people’s experience of being in the care system can be a potential source of discrimination like other protected characteristics, such as race or disability. It will help the Council to seek to redress these inequalities and for the needs of care leavers to be considered within Equality Impact Assessments for any future policy changes.

Councillor Wendy Meikle added: “It is something I have felt very passionately about and I am delighted that the Council has supported and approved being care experienced as a protected characteristic, proudly joining the many other councils who have adopted this nationwide.

“As corporate parents to the children and young people in our care and care leavers, we take those responsibilities extremely seriously. As such, we want to make sure that our children get the same opportunities in education, housing, employment, relationships, the justice system, and training, and in life generally, as other young people. However, we know that people who have been in care are more likely to face disadvantage and discrimination in life.

“We want all our young people to have the help they need when they need it, so to tackle this and to show the commitment we have, the decision to make care experience a protected characteristic will help level the playing field, make sure make sure that no child with care experience is discriminated against and that they have every opportunity to live fulfilling and successful lives without barriers.”

Two of Stockport’s care experienced adults spoke to councillors at scrutiny committee in October to speak about their experiences and about why it was so important and vital for them that their experience was treated as a protected characteristic and the difference they hope it will make for them.

Chereece Bateson, 22, said: “Our care leaver status impacts our whole lives due to our care experiences and mostly due to stereotypes around in society and our day to day lives. We are continuously humiliated and ridiculed due to this. We continue to face barriers within society regarding services that are supposed there to protect and support us. Whether it’s public or private sector, professionals view us in a discriminatory manner because of our past. Why is it ok to leave us to struggle?”

Jordan Oldham, 24, added: “We are not our title, and we are not just our past. We are independent young adults who deserve the same treatment as normal individuals. We are more than care leavers but, without this protection, these stereotypes and discrimination continue. This change will improve the way of life for future generations of children who are currently living in care who will one day become care leavers. It will help shield the protection they have always received from their childhood and give them the confidence that support is still available, and they won’t just be abandoned.”

The council now joins around 60 other local authorities who have also voted to make being care experienced a protected characteristic.

Being care experienced in the area will be treated as if it were a Protected Characteristic under the Equalities Act 2010 so that decisions on future services and policies made and adopted by the council would be assessed and consider the impact on people with care experience.

The list of characteristics currently protected under legislation are age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, and sexual orientation.