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Christian charity head welcomes Universal Basic Income trial for care leavers in Wales

by Donna Birrell

The head of a Christian children's charity is welcoming the idea of a Universal Basic Income for teenagers leaving care.

From today, care leavers in Wales will be given £1600 a month to help support them into adulthood.

Around 500 18 year olds will receive the monthly payment as part of a two-year pilot scheme.

The Welsh government hopes the guaranteed income will help them overcome challenges such as the threat of homelessness and mental health problems. 

Ian Soars is CEO of Spurgeons which works with vulnerable families, children and young people. He's been speaking to Premier about how this could also encourage churches to provide more support for teenagers leaving care :

"It's a really vulnerable group and it's not just a special problem for care leavers in Wales. 

"Most young people at 18 are supported financially, emotionally, they've had a reasonable education hopefully and they'll be cared for in the next phase of life. That's not true for 18 year olds in care - what happens is that at 17 years 364 days, they are a child, the next day, they're an adult. They'll go from children's mental health care to adult mental health care, they go from children's social services to Adult Social Services. 

"There's nowhere for them to go, there's no natural home and there's nowhere for them to return to if it all goes wrong. So this manifests in homelessness and in mental health issues."

The financial 'safety blanket' that the Welsh government is rolling out to care leavers is the equivalent of the living wage which equates to around £19,000 a year. Ian Soars says he welcomes the move and would like to see something similar trialled in England :

 "Money doesn't solve the problems, emotionally these people need community, they need care, they need support. They need arms wrapped around them. But it does alleviate the immediate crisis of how do I eat? How do I get heated? How do I survive day to day?

"If the government doesn't step in in the way that the Welsh Government has magnificently done, what's the alternative? The alternative tends to be sofa-surfing at best if they're privileged, but mainly the streets and that is a real indictment on us as a culture and society. I think what the Welsh government doing is fantastic."

Ian Soars says this should also be an opportunity for churches to get involved in helping charities support teenagers who are leaving the care system : 

 "The church might not be able to step in financially in a way that the Welsh Government has done, but we can step in from a community perspective. At Spurgeons we're looking to open up children's homes and one of the first things we did when we made that decision is to think about what happens when they turn 18.

"If  the church could support us and all the other care providers and ask how they can support us when these young people turn 18, I think that could be a magnificent opportunity for this church to be a national solution to what is actually a national crisis."


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