‘Care experienced’ discrimination motion for South Tyneside backed

Councillors in South Tyneside have backed calls to help tackle discrimination and stigma faced by people with ‘care experience’.
South Tyneside CouncilSouth Tyneside Council
South Tyneside Council

Care experienced people include those who have, at any point in their life, been cared for by a local authority which can include foster care or time in residential children’s homes.

Under law, this group do not currently benefit from legal protections around discrimination, with campaigners calling for changes to be made to national legislation.

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This includes making care experience a “protected characteristic” in the same way the law treats discrimination against age, disability, race, religion and other protected characteristics.

South Tyneside Council has now joined other local authorities who have called for care experience to become a protected characteristic, in line with one of the ‘missions’ linked to the national Independent Review into Children’s Social Care.

The decision was made following a notice of motion proposed by councillor Adam Ellison, Labour cabinet member for children, young people and families.

The motion outlined the types of stigma and discrimination care experienced people can face, from people being refused employment and failing to succeed in education to “facing unfair judgements about their ability to parent”.

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Cllr Ellison said it was important to recognise care experience as a protected characteristic to “level the playing field and because it’s the right thing to do”.

He added: “In South Tyneside we have a strong record of supporting children and young people in our care and care experienced adults, recognising and prioritising the need for support for care experienced individuals.

“However under legislation we can go further than this, this motion put forward this evening supports this view and calls on the Government to act”.

Councillors discussed the motion at the most recent meeting of borough council on Thursday, March 9, at South Shields Town Hall.

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The motion included a pledge to recognise care experienced people as a group who are “likely to face discrimination” as well as steps to support them.

This included putting “disadvantaged people at the heart of decision-making through co-production and collaboration” and considering the impact of future council decisions, services and policies on people with care experience.

Other pledges involved calls to the Government to make care experience a protected characteristic and developing a regional response to the issue.

Councillor Jim Foreman, Labour cabinet member for housing and community safety, shared his own experiences as a child growing up in care and said the stigma around care experience remains today.

Cllr Foreman said: “It really is about stigma and discrimination and that stigma and discrimination it’s as bad now as it was 65 years ago, so that’s why I fully support this motion.

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“The big thing about it, as indicated by Cllr Ellison, is that the responsibility of being a corporate parent doesn’t lie with the corporate parenting committee.

“It lies with every member in this chamber and it lies with members in the public gallery as well, as well as every [council] officer.

“At the end of the day, these are our children in our borough and we should protect them as much as possible”.

During debate on the motion, independent councillor John Robertson proposed an amendment which included involving South Tyneside’s MPs.

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Cllr Robertson also referenced an individual case where the “system let down” a looked after child and care leaver and suggested there were wider issues around care in South Tyneside.

He added: “We cannot say it’s rosy in the garden when it’s certainly not rosy in the garden”.

After being put to the vote, the amended motion was agreed unanimously by councillors.

Councillor Adam Ellison, speaking after the meeting, welcomed the decision.

He said: “It is a sad fact of life that people who are care experienced tend to face prejudice and discrimination through no fault of their own.

“As councillors we have a duty to call this out whenever and wherever we see it.

“I am delighted that as a result of this motion, we will now be writing to the Secretary of State to call for care experience to be treated as a ‘protected characteristic’, which would protect care leavers against discrimination in the same way as the law protects against factors such as age, race, religion and sexual orientation.

“Furthermore, we will now work with regional colleagues to make a recommendation to this effect to the Independent Review of Children’s Social Care”.