We face an unprecedented situation that is already having a profound impact on our daily lives. For young people with care-experience, who may not have strong support networks, this will be a potentially overwhelming, isolating and anxious time.


On behalf of Staf I want to thank the dedicated social workers, residential workers, teachers, foster carers, kinships carers and others that are working hard to reassure, support and advise care-experienced young people at this challenging time.


It is truly humbling to see that across Scotland local communities are coming together to support the most vulnerable in our society. For our part, Staf is doing everything we can to engage with the young people taking part in our projects – including through digital participation – to tackle the loneliness and social isolation that will undoubtedly come from the response to COVID-19 and the need for self-isolation and social distancing.


In particular, we have begun sending out care packages to young people involved in our projects, including mobile phone top-ups, supermarket vouchers, corona advice and activities for keeping busy and self-care.


Over the past week we have also talked to the young people in our project groups about their worries and anxieties around the corona virus. They tell us they are worrying about being able to continue in work, about access to food or being able to get to the shops to top-up power cards. With all of this, it is no wonder that they are also worrying about their mental health too.  


For care leavers in precarious work, the current situation may leave them without this source of income at all. For those with young families, school closures will create an additional worry. And the panic buying that we have seen in recent days will make it difficult for young people who may have limited income to buy essentials in their local shops.


Staf will continue to support our members in their work, ensuring that no care-experienced young person has to worry about rent payments, utility bills, access to food or childcare arrangements. We would encourage any Staf member to get in touch with their concerns around coronavirus and we will raise these on their behalf.  


Of course, we welcome the Scottish Government’s announcement that £350 million has been made available to support the welfare and wellbeing of those affected by the pandemic, with specific funding for local authorities and third sector organisations. The increased funding for hardship support and to ensure access to food is particularly welcome.


We know that there is a shared commitment to removing unnecessary bureaucratic hurdles to receiving support so we would ask local authorities to consider using some of the funds available to distribute increased support to care leavers through their leaving care teams, who will already have a trusting relationship with their young people.


We also consider it important that care leavers have as much information as possible on where and how they can access support. We welcome resources already provided by SCVO and Young Scot to do this generally but also ask that the Scottish Government consider a specific resource for care-experienced young people. Staf, with a network of members across Scotland, is well placed to support this work.

While we also welcome changes made by the UK Government to Universal Credit, we believe they do not go far enough. As we called for in the General Election, no care leaver should be subject to benefit sanctions. Now is the time for the DWP to suspend their punitive sanctions regime.  We would also echo calls from the Scottish Government for the two-child cap to be removed and the household benefit cap to be raised as a matter of urgency.


We do not know how long this situation will last but we do know that working together with all levels of government, the third sector and communities that we will support our young people through this.


The Care Review called for Scotland to be a good parent. It has never been more important that we do everything we can to live up to that promise – Staf will support our members to continue to do so.