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Agenda item

Councillor Holloway - Care Experience as Protected Characteristic

This Council notes that:


-       care experienced people face significant barriers that impact on them throughout their lives. One in five care leavers feels lonely most or all of the time (Baker et al. 2019, p. 6), care leavers make up 25% of Britain’s homeless population (Mackie and Thomas 2014, p. 27), and adults who have spent time in care are far more likely than their peers to die prematurely (Sacker et al. 2021, p. 33).

-       despite the resilience of many care experienced people, society too often does not take their needs into account. Josh Macalister wrote in The Independent Review of Children’s Social Care that “The disadvantage faced by the care experienced community should be the civil rights issue of our time” (Macalister 2022, p. 24).

-       care experienced people often face direct and indirect discrimination, and need to be protected against both. This discrimination occurs in many areas of life, including housing, health, education, relationships, employment and criminal justice.

-       care experienced people may encounter inconsistent support in different geographical areas.

-       councillors should be champions of care experienced people and challenge the negative attitudes and prejudices that exist in all aspects of society.

-       the Public Sector Equality Duty requires public bodies, such as councils, to eliminate unlawful discrimination, harassment, and victimisation of people with protected characteristics.

-       Current Care Leaver provisions end at age 25, whereas recognition of care experience as a protected characteristic would mean that care experience would be taken into account for a lifetime – in the same way as the discrimination and hardships resulting from care experience last a lifetime.

-       Cambridgeshire County Council and Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority have passed motions recognising care experience as if it were a protected characteristic, on 16 May 2023 and 29 November 2023 respectively.



This Council therefore resolves that:


-       it recognises that care experienced people are a group who are likely to face discrimination.

-       it recognises that councils have a duty to put the needs of disadvantaged people at the heart of decision-making through co-production and collaboration.

-       future decisions, services and policies made and adopted by this Council should be assessed through Equality Impact Assessments to determine the impact of changes on people with care experience, alongside those who formally have a protected characteristic.

-       in its delivery of the Public Sector Equality Duty, this Council will include care experience in the publication and review of Equality Objectives and the annual publication of information relating to people who have a protected characteristic in services and employment.

-       this Council will treat care experience as if it were a protected characteristic.

-       this Council formally calls upon all other bodies, including other local authorities in Cambridgeshire, to treat care experience as a protected characteristic until such time as this recognition may be introduced by legislation.

-       this Council will continue proactively seeking out and listening to the voices of care experienced people when developing new policies.


Notes (not part of active motion)


1.    ‘Care experience’ is an umbrella term used to describe individuals who are, or who have at any time been, in the care of a local authority. Care experience currently has no statutory basis and is not deemed to be a ‘protected characteristic’ within the existing protected characteristics under the Equality Act (2010).


2.    45% of children in care suffer from a mental illness, including 72% of children in residential care. Children and young people in care, and care leavers, are 4-5 times more likely than the general population to attempt suicide in adulthood (Children and Young People’s Health Outcomes Forum – Mental Health Sub-Group 2012).


3.    An ONS study found that more than half of a cohort of care experienced young people had a criminal conviction by age 24, compared to 13% of their peers who had not been in care (ONS, 2022). Just under half of under 21-year-olds in contact with the criminal justice system have spent time in care (The Centre for Social Justice, 2008, p. 129).


4.    Local housing registers often require applicants to have a ‘local connection’. One way to qualify as having a local connection is by having a close family member who lives in the area - putting care experienced people at a disadvantage. When trying to find rental accommodation, care experienced people are much less likely than the general population to have a guarantor, which some landlords require.


References (not part of active motion)


Baker, C., Briheim-Crookall, L., Magnus, L., and Selwyn, J. (2019), ‘Our Lives beyond Care’, Coram Voice. https://coramvoice.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/OLBC-Snapshot-online-2018.pdf


Children and Young People’s Health Outcomes Forum – Mental Health Sub-Group (July 2012), Report of the Children and Young People’s Health Outcomes Forum – Mental Health Sub-Group. https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/media/5a7caf00ed915d7c983bc471/CYP-Mental-Health.pdf


Macalister, J. (2022), ‘Final Report – May 2022’, The Independent Review of Children’s Social Care. https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/media/640a17f28fa8f5560820da4b/Independent_review_of_children_s_social_care_-_Final_report.pdf


Mackie, P., and Thomas, I., (2014), Nations Apart?: Experiences of Single Homeless People across Great Britain, London: Crisis. https://www.crisis.org.uk/media/20608/crisis_nations_apart_2014.pdf


ONS (2022), The Education Background of Looked-after Children Who Interact with the Criminal Justice System: December 2022. https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/educationandchildcare/articles/theeducationbackgroundoflookedafterchildrenwhointeractwiththecriminaljusticesystem/december2022


Sacker, A., Lacey, R., Maughan, B., Murray, E. (2021), The Lifelong Health and Wellbeing Trajectories of People Who Have Been in Care, Nuffield Foundation. https://www.nuffieldfoundation.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/The-lifelong-health-and-wellbeing-trajectories-of-people-who-have-been-in-care.pdf


The Centre for Social Justice (2008), Couldn’t Care Less: A Policy Report from the Children in Care Working Group. https://www.centreforsocialjustice.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/CouldntCareLess.pdf



Item covered in 15 February 2024 minutes.