Care experienced young people losing out from beneficial government initiatives

Include Youth have stated that young care experienced people, who are not in a formal school setting, are losing out on assistance and support over COVID.

This follows the announcement of two separate initiatives this week, the ‘Text a Nurse’ programme and the COVID hardship incentive aimed at tackling digital poverty for those in further education. 

Speaking this week Dr Paula Rodgers, Include Youth’s Policy Co-ordinator said: 

“The two initiatives announced this week which include the ‘Text a Nurse’ scheme and the one off payment of £60 to help those in full time or part time further education with data costs, therefore combatting digital poverty, are to be welcomed. 

“They are two innovative ways to support young people in terms of mental health provision and tackling digital poverty, which are most definitely needed over the COVID affected period. 

“However, only a week after the publication of the cross departmental strategy “A Life Deserved: “Caring” for Children & Young People in Northern Ireland.” it is essential that care experienced young people who are continuing education outside of a formal setting have access to the same initiatives as their peers.

“Whilst in a non-formal school setting there will be little or no access to a school nurse to address issues including emotional health and wellbeing, alcohol and drugs, sexual health, and bullying. They also lose out on the digital poverty payment as many are studying outside school and further education colleges, the latter being the body that such payments will be made through. 

“Essentially many care experienced young people, who are one of our most vulnerable groups, are falling between the cracks and not being able to avail of such government driven assistance being delivered to their peers. 

“Include Youth are calling for an expansion of both these programmes and any forthcoming support schemes, ensuring they are future proofed to include care experienced young people, such as those we work with on a daily basis. 

“There needs to be consideration given at the highest level when these initiatives are being developed and Include Youth would be happy to share our knowledge with any department or institution to close the current gaps we are witnessing.”