Last month we held our first roundtable event as we continue our drive, with our partners at Aberlour and Who Cares? Scotland, to establish a guaranteed income for care leavers. Chaired by North Ayrshire Councillor Joe Cullinane and attended by other key players in the political and policy sphere, and most importantly, by those with experience of leaving care, the meeting was a passion filled and at the same time practical look at the issues surrounding income guarantees.  

We heard from Staf and Aberlour CEOs Jo Derrick and SallyAnn Kelly whose commitment to the cause has led us to this point. They laid out the briefing note and presented the case for some form of guaranteed income for care leavers. As SallyAnn stated 'A corporate parent is more than a 9 to 5 job, it's 24/7'. They spoke of the need to provide security and certainty for the relatively small number of people who are some of our most vulnerable in society.  

The contributions from those with care experience shone a light on the importance of giving people security, agency, choice and empowerment, something a guaranteed income would allow and prevent so many young people falling off the cliff edge once they left care. They spoke of the difference between living and survival and the real struggles and difficult choices they have had to make when faced with a limited and uncertain income. They did however share concerns that any income guarantee should not be at the expense of other benefits.  

We were joined by Councillors Chirs Cunningham (Glasgow City Council) and David Ross (Fife Council) who had carried out Universal Basic Income feasibility studies. The intrinsic links between income guarantees and the UK Government Department of Work and Pensions were highlighted and the barriers of trying to introduce a policy which has a potential impact on social security payments. Like the young people, the Councillors spoke of the risk to existing benefits and the unintended consequences of making care leavers worse off. However, there was also notes of optimism as one as Chris Cunningham noted 'The need for financial support is undeniable. Unless you test it out, you don't know'.  

The Promise was also represented by Thomas Carlton who spoke passionately about ensuring young people aren't transitioning from care to poverty, which is still unfortunately the case for many young people. He referred to the 'bank of mum and dad' with the financial but also emotional security which many young people can fall back on is just not there for care leavers.  

We were delighted to be joined by MSP Pamela Duncan Glancy who shared her own frustrations around accessing the social security system and shared her support for care leavers. She also spoke of the need for a comprehensive, intelligent system to identify when someone requires financial support. Clearly there is a need to streamline and make accessing welfare support much more straight forward. If a minimum income were to be introduced, it would need to be easy to access and the hoops young people talk of having to jump through have to be removed.  
Thank you also to Louise Hunter, CEO of Who Cares? Scotland, Bill Scott, Chair of the Poverty and Inequality Commission and Claire Burns, Acting Director of CELCIS for their contributions to this lively and important debate and to David Hannigan, Team Leader for Care Leaver Support for the Scottish Government who will feed back the issues raised to his team and keep the conversation moving. 

The roundtable event was an important step in our exploration into the possibilities of a guaranteed income for care leavers. There is a lot more work to be done, which we are committed to working on with care leavers as their input and experience is the bedrock of all that we do. Challenges and barriers will be faced but, as SallyAnn Kelly closed the event by saying ‘It always seems impossible until it’s done.’