The Committee received a report on the support available to Care Leavers to enable them to progress into Education, Employment and Training presented by Stephen Crass, Progression Co-ordinator (for copy of report see file of minutes).
The Progression Co-ordinator outlined the wide range of support available including:
· the DurhamWorks programme, which assists Care Leavers to progress into and remain in education, employment and training;
· the new DurhamWorks Programme for Schools and other transition support from year 11, to post 16 learning;
· the DurhamEnable supported employment scheme for Care Leavers aged over 18 with learning, physical or mental health barriers;
· support for Care Leavers through Durham County Council’s Pathway for Young People, including a new sessional employment programme, opportunities to access paid work experience, ring fenced apprenticeships and guaranteed interviews for those who meet the essential criteria of advertised posts;
· the Government’s Kickstart scheme which assists young people whose employment prospects have been negatively affected by Covid through providing employment for 6 months for those claiming Universal Credit;
· the establishment of youth hubs in Stanley and Peterlee and the plans to launch a hub in Bishop Auckland;
· Durham County Council’s involvement in the six month Pupil Premium Plus scheme, and the ‘Keep in College’ £20 weekly incentive payment for Care Leavers who achieve over 80% authorised attendance.
The report also presented performance data and provided information on future priorities including maximising the new European Social Fund programmes being delivered through DurhamWorks to ensure Care Leavers continue to benefit from these opportunities.
The Progression Co-ordinator answered questions and comments as follows.
Councillor Walton observed that some of the programmes had been successfully adapted to continue throughout the pandemic and asked if there were plans to continue the new ways of working. The Progression Co-ordinator responded that the hybrid approach will continue as it had led to stronger links with the young people and their wider support group.
Councillor Walton commented that she was pleased to see increasing opportunities for Care Leavers within the Council and referring to the recent briefing sessions for tier 4/5 managers with regard to the role of the corporate parent, Councillor Walton asked why managers required additional training to feel more confident in this regard. The Progression Co-ordinator explained that some managers had requested additional support when dealing with complex issues and as a result, managers now have points of contact if they require assistance.
Councillor Deinali referred to those young people who are continuing in education after the age of 19 in order to achieve basic skills and asked what financial support in respect of living costs is available to these young people who may not be eligible to access the benefit system. The Progression Co-ordinator explained that funding is available through the Government’s adult education funding stream and financial support is offered through DurhamWorks up to age of 25. Further information on support with living costs would be circulated to the Panel following the meeting.
Councillor Gunn thanked the officer for the comprehensive report and commented that DurhamWorks had been hugely successful adding that she was pleased to hear about the new DurhamWorks Programme for Schools. Noting that DurhamWorks is European Union funded, she asked how hopeful the service is for the future of these projects. The Progression Co-ordinator responded that the current programme is funded until the end of December 2023, however, the Youth Futures Fund is not European Union funded and DurhamWorks Futures may extend beyond December 2023. It is hoped that the positive impact of the current DurhamWorks programme will stand it in good stead in terms of future bids for the UK Prosperity Fund.
Councillor Coult referred to the lack of data in respect of those aged 19-21 who were classed as ‘not known’ and queried what more could be done to obtain this information. The Progression Co-ordinator replied that he would endeavour to obtain and circulate recent data published by the DfE. He pointed out that there are difficulties in gathering data on those within the 19-21 age group as they may be less inclined to inform on their whereabouts.
That the report be noted.