With the UK parliament election polling to take place on December 12th, we highlight some of the manifesto commitments made by the UK’s four largest parties (The Scottish National Party, The Labour Party, The Liberal Democrats, and The Conservative and Unionist Party) that could impact on care leavers and those that support them.

Staf called for parties to Raise Incomes of care leavers by ensuring that all care leavers in work are paid the real living wage, and to Reform Social Security by scrapping the five-week wait for universal credit, replacing punitive sanctions with person-centred social security services, and exempting care leavers from the Shared Accommodation Rate.

You can read Staf’s full General Election 2019 briefing on Tackling Care Leaver Poverty here.

Staf’s Call: Raise Incomes of care leavers – ‘level up’ the incomes of care leavers by ensuring that all care leavers in work are paid the real living wage

All parties have made varying pledges relating to wage rates, with three parties making specific pledges on an increase (The SNP, The Labour Party and The Conservative and Unionist Party) and The Liberal Democrats promising to conduct a review.

The SNP have pledged to demand that powers over employment are devolved to Scotland and that, in the meantime, SNP MPs would push for the statutory living wage to rise to at least the level of the real living wage (currently £9.30 per hour) and for an end to age discrimination. Indeed, the SNP manifesto’s section on tackling care leaver poverty directly adopts Staf’s recommendations – stating explicitly that the SNP will call for ‘the levelling-up of incomes of care leavers by ensuring the Real Living Wage applies to all’.

The Labour Party promises the rapid introduction of a Real Living Wage of at least £10 per hour for all workers aged 16 and over, accompanied by the introduction of a new unified Worker’s Protection Agency to enforce workplace rights, including the Real Living Wage. Labour has also pledged to ban zero-hour contracts and unpaid internships, to repeal anti-trade union legislation, and to roll-out sectoral collective bargaining across the economy, with an overall commitment to eradicate in-work poverty within the first term of government.

The Conservative and Unionist Party has pledged to extend the National Living Wage to 21-24 year olds and gradually raise it to two-thirds of median wages by 2024. The Liberal Democrat Party stated it will establish an independent review to consult on how to set a genuine Living Wage across all sectors, as well introduce a new Worker Protection Enforcement Authority to protect those in precarious work.

Staf’s Call: Reform Social Security by scrapping the five-week wait for universal credit, replacing punitive sanctions with person-centred social security services, and exempting care leavers from the Shared Accommodation Rate.

Each of the four major parties has taken a different approach on Universal Credit: The Labour Party has committed to scrapping it entirely, the SNP is calling for a halt and reform, the Liberal Democrats have pledged to continue with reform and the Conservative and Unionist Party has restated its commitment the roll-out. The former three parties have all committed to replacing sanctions and taking an alternative approach.

The Labour Party manifesto promises to end the five-week wait through the introduction of an interim payment based on half an estimated monthly entitlement, to immediately suspend sanctions, and to scrap Universal Credit entirely – instead designing an ‘alternative system that treats people with dignity and respect’ and introducing an emergency package of reforms while this is developed. The overall ambition of a new system is to end poverty by guaranteeing a minimum standard of living.

The SNP manifesto also focuses on a system of ‘dignity and respect’ – referring to the Scottish social security system designed within the parameters of currently devolved powers as an example of this, and makes a commitment that SNP MPs will ‘demand a halt to Universal credit’ and an end to punitive benefit sanctions. The SNP have further called for care leavers to be exempt from the Shared Accommodation Rate for Housing Benefit to support them to secure and maintain their own tenancy –directly heeding Staf’s call to take immediate steps to tackle care leaver poverty.

The Liberal Democrat Party has pledged to reduce the wait for the first payment from five weeks to five days, and reform Universal Credit to be ‘more supportive of the self-employed’. Further, the party commits to the introduction of ‘an incentive-based scheme to replace the current sanctions system’.

The Conservative and Unionist manifesto commits to ‘continue the roll-out of Universal Credit which combines multiple benefits into one while building a clearer pathway from welfare into work’ and commits to ‘do more to make sure that Universal Credit works for the most vulnerable’ – although it is not entirely clear what measures would be taken to achieve this.

Review of the Care System
The SNP and Scottish Labour manifestos both reference The Independent Care Review that is set to positively transform the care system in Scotland – while also recognising the need for immediate action. The SNP manifesto features a section on tackling care leaver poverty, as per Staf’s election calls, and pledges to ‘demand further support to care-experienced people from the UK Government.’ The Scottish Labour Party emphasise the need for workforce support to deliver the best possible care, noting that ‘local authorities need sufficient resources to provide the loving and supportive environments that looked after young people need to thrive.’

The UK Labour and The Conservative and Unionist Party manifestos commit to reviewing the care system south of the border, however the strength and specificity of the language within these commitments varies.

A comprehensive independent review of the care system is a key ask of Become in this general election. You can find out more about Become’s asks of political parties here.

The Conservative and Unionist Party states the party will ‘review the care system to make sure that all care placements and settings are providing children and young adults with the support they need’ and ‘prioritise stable, loving placements [for children in care] – adoption where possible or foster parents recruited by the local authority.’

The Labour Party pledges a ‘wholesale review of the care system including kinship care, considering national standards such as a central register of foster parents and regulation of semi-supported housing’ as well as committing to ‘protect and build on Staying Put for over-18s in care and the Adoption Support Fund.’ Labour further talks specifically of care leavers in employment, with the introduction of targeted climate apprenticeship bursaries.

The two parties also take slightly different approaches to the current ‘Troubled Families’ programme. The Conservatives pledge to continue the programme under its current title, albeit with improvements, and to ‘champion Family Hubs to serve vulnerable families with the intensive, integrated support they need to care for children – from the early years and throughout their lives’. The UK Labour Party are however pledging to ‘rebuild early intervention services and replace the Troubled Families programme with a Stronger Families programme, refocused on long-term support to reduce the risk of children going into care.’

To find out more about what the each of the parties are pledging in this election, read the manifestos here:

Scottish National Party (SNP)
Stronger for Scotland: SNP Manifesto 2019

The Labour Party
It’s Time for Real Change: The Labour Party Manifesto 2019
Funding Real Change
Real Change For the Many not the Few: Scottish Labour Manifesto 2019

The Liberal Democrats
Stop Brexit and Build a Brighter Future (Manifesto 2019)
Stop Brexit and Build a Brighter Future (Manifesto Costings Summary 2019)

The Conservative and Unionist Party
Get Brexit Done: Unleash Britain’s Potential (Manifesto 2019)
Costings Document
No to Indyref2: The Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party (Manifesto 2019)

Please note that, at the time of writing, The Scottish Liberal Democrat Party has not yet released its manifesto.