Home Children and Young People Care Experience recognised as a protected characteristic
A social worker talks to a teenage girl in an office

Care Experience recognised as a protected characteristic

by Emily Maguire

At a full council meeting on Wednesday 18 October, a notice of motion was endorsed to expand Knowsley Council’s list of protected characteristics to include children in care and young people who have experienced care.

‘Care Experienced’ refers to anyone who has had prolonged contact with social care, whether by legal order from the court –  known as a care order – or in care settings, such as foster care, residential care, or other forms of out-of-home care.

The decision follows a report from the Independent Review of Children’s Social Care which was published a in May 2022 and recommended that: “Government should make care experience a protected characteristic”. So far more than 40 Local Authorities have passed motions to adopt care experience as a protected characteristic.

Care experienced people make up around 1.4 per cent of the UK population but account for 25 per cent of homeless people in England and a quarter of the prison population. Nearly half of all under 21-year-olds in contact with the criminal justice system have been in care.

In recognising ‘Care Experienced’ as a protected characteristic, the Council will actively seek out and listen to the voices of care experienced people in the same way that they would across the spectrum of age, disability, gender, sex, sexual orientation, race and religion.

As well as the nine protected characteristics named in the Equality Act 2010, the Council also includes armed forces, families and veterans, carers, offending past and socio-economic status, and child poverty as local protected characteristics.

Cllr Margaret Harvey, Cabinet Member for Children’s Services said: “Care Experienced People can face significant challenges upon leaving the care system and are statistically more likely to struggle across a range of areas including education, employment and housing as well as more likely to experience poor mental health and disrupted adult relationships.

“Care Experienced People can also be subject to discrimination, this can include being refused private rents, access to employment and an increased likelihood of criminalisation. By adopting ‘Care Experienced’ as a protected characteristic, we are better placed to ensure that all decisions the Council make, the policies they set and the services they commission consider the specific needs of care experienced people and the impact on them.”