AN OFFICIAL pledge from the council has been made to offer extra support to young people leaving care.

The Redcar and Cleveland Care Leaver Covenant – a national inclusion programme to support care leavers aged 16 to 25 to live independently - was formally agreed at Cabinet recently.

The authority already offers extra apprenticeship including Tom Patton, who was formerly in care but now works for the council to help other care leavers, and other work placement opportunities to care leavers.

Council officers will deliver workshops to share their skills and knowledge including things like budgeting, independent living skills and staying safe.

Providing access to the council’s Handy Person Service so the young person can learn skills such as putting up curtain rails in their home.

Councillor Alison Barnes, Cabinet Member for Children, said: “All our young people deserve the best possible life chances - but the sad fact is many of our care leavers have a much tougher time than most of their peers. The national statistics are not good, with nearly 40 per cent of care leavers aged 19 to 21 not in education or employment and care leavers four times more likely to have mental health problems, often due to isolation and loneliness. They are also much more likely to end up homeless.

The Care Leaver Covenant is an opportunity to improve those statistics. It is really about fulfilling the most important role all of us have at the council - as corporate parents. Most of us, when we get our first home, can call on mum or dad for advice on who to call about getting the boiler fixed, for example. If we got frightened or lonely, we could just go home to a hot meal and a shoulder to cry on. These young people don’t always have that.

“I would like to pay a very real tribute to our Care Leavers Team who have done amazing work for these young people, for many years, often over and above their council duties. I hear of them making sure their care leavers get a Christmas present, or on a more serious note, ensuring they feel safe.

“The Care Leaver Covenant is about sharing the responsibility we have for our care experienced young people more extensively - across the entire council and beyond.”

Mr Patton, a former foster child has become a Youth Engagement Officer on the council’s Kickstart scheme, which gives young people struggling to find work a chance.

Mr Patton said: “I think I can offer something personal.

“The young people ask me how I felt in their situation – they know they can speak to me.”

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Mr Patton, who lives in New Marske, explained his mother died when he was two and he eventually entered foster care aged about 14 after a family carer struggled to cope.

He studied on a BTEC course at Redcar & Cleveland College where he was named Student of the Year and also received another award for overcoming adversity.

The 23-year-old said he suffered some dark times as a child, eventually completed a two-year highways apprenticeship at the council but had yet another blow when he was told there was no job available at the end.

Mr Patton added: “I never stopped working though.

“I did all sorts, engineering, warehouse work, delivery driver, you name it. But I wanted to give something back. I wanted to work with other young people like me. I know people in a similar situation to my situation but haven’t moved on. I don’t want that for other young people.”

Mr Patton is concentrating on gaining a new qualification in safeguarding and continuing to impress in his current role. He has also taken on two other part-time jobs – working behind the bar at Boro FC and delivering pizzas – and has a focus on gaining qualifications from university in the near future.

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