Care leavers have been given extra help to get through the coronavirus pandemic by the City of Wolverhampton Council.

It has provided additional financial, practical and emotional support and organised a range of activities to help keep their spirits up.

Councillor John Reynolds, the City of Wolverhampton Council's Cabinet Member for Children and Young People, said: "Giving our children and young people the best possible start in life is a key priority for the council, and that is particularly true for our care leavers who often have no family or other means of support. 

"The pandemic has had a huge impact on the lives of many of our care leavers and magnified some of the difficulties they face, like loneliness, isolation and financial difficulties. At the same time, it has been great to see how they have developed their resilience and self-confidence as they have adapted to changes in their circumstances.

"Responding to Covid-19 has been a massive challenge for the council, including in our work with children in care and care leavers, and we have done everything we can to make their lives as positive as possible throughout the pandemic.

"We have had a brilliant response from care leavers for the additional support we have given them and particularly for the little extras we provided over Christmas, with young people telling us that it helped to make the festive period feel as normal and enjoyable as could be."

Among the help provided by the council has been financial support in the form of an increase in care leavers' personal allowance, in line with Government increase in Universal Credit, and Winter Grant payments for care leavers who are living independently.

Emotional support has been provided through additional contact between care leavers and their Young Persons Advisors, The Reach Leaving Care Team, Parent Champions and Grandmentors, while all care leavers have been given access to Kooth, which provides online emotional support and counselling for young people. 

Throughout the pandemic Young Persons Advisors have ensured that care leavers know where else they can turn if they need support, such as food banks and local charities, and emergency food parcels, electric and gas have been provided to young people in hardship. 

Anyone who has had to self-isolate has been supported to ensure they have adequate food and medication, and care leavers have been given laptops, dongles and mobile phones to combat isolation, help them continue their education and keep in touch with friends and their key workers.

And to make the festive period as special as possible, the council held a number of activities over Christmas including providing presents, advent calendars and selection boxes for care leavers and toys for the children of care leavers, organising virtual festive events and even delivering Meals on Wheels Christmas dinners to the most vulnerable care leavers.

One young care leaver said: "I'm really thankful for all the extra support that has been given to me during Covid-19, the winter payment scheme has helped me as I was furloughed and all the extra support my Young Person's Advisor has given me has been helpful."

Another added: "My Young Persons Advisor's support during the pandemic has been incredible. She has helped me with money issues, personal issues and always has very good advice. When I ask her if she could do something for me, she does it as soon as possible. The pandemic has been really hard but it’s easier knowing that I have her.”

Councillor Reynolds said: "I would like to thank colleagues for the incredible work they have done, and continue to do, to ensure that our care leavers are supported as they make the transition to adulthood and independence, which is a pivotal moment in their lives.

“I would also like to thank our partner organisations who have given generously and worked with us to develop the offer, particularly charities including the Adventist Church, Acts 345, Rees foundation, Vickers Relief Fund and Simple Acts Of Kindness, Morrisons supermarket and our House Project partner, Reconomy.”