Cumberland Council will be the new local authority for West Cumbria from 1st April 2023. However, the Council has already unanimously voted to make care experience a protected characteristic within its constituency, becoming the first county in England to do so.

The motion gives care experience the same protected status as race, disability, gender and sexual orientation. The importance of this status and its implications for care leavers can not be overestimated and the new Cumberland authority is leading the way to enhance equality of opportunity whilst eradicating the stigma which many have faced.

Cumbria’s leading Family Law solicitor, Alison Bone and Carlisle Key, a charity that supports young homeless people, and those at risk of homelessness, explain why this new protection is so ground-breaking.

Alison Bone is a Partner at Bendles Solicitors and has over 30 years specialising in Child Care matters.

Commenting on the implications of the policy, Alison said: “The barriers care-experienced young people face is often insurmountable, deepening the trauma for many and compounding the pressure childcare services across Cumbria are under. Statistically speaking, children whose parents are care leavers are at higher risk of entering the care system themselves. This is a clear indication that more support is needed to overcome the disadvantage faced.

“I believe this is an extremely positive motion, it marks a step-change in attitudes and thinking which will allow care leavers the same opportunity as others. It recognises the barriers faced without pitying or belittling young people’s experiences.”

Carlisle Key works with young people aged 16-25 who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. They provide assistance and support within a drop in and housing service to alleviate the hardship and distress caused by homelessness, housing, financial and other related difficulties.

Iain McNee, Manager at Carlisle Key, said: “We value any steps forward in providing greater equity amongst young people in Cumbria, it is vital that the voice of the care leaver is heard in matters that affect them. At Carlisle Key we aim to provide the space, time and support to young people experiencing hardship of any kind.”

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