JUST 25 percent of care leavers in Scotland are known to be in work, education or training. And adults with care-experience are one and a half times more likely to have financial difficulties.

In a society that believes young people leaving care have a right to compassion and love, how can we accept a system that locks too many of them into a lifetime of poverty?

At Staf, Scotland’s membership organisation for all those involved in the lives of young people leaving care, we believe we need to explore the systemic changes needed to unlock this cycle of poverty.

During the first lockdown care leavers told us they were concerned about being able to get to food banks – not to get to supermarkets but to food banks. Care-experienced students have been unable to pick up work over the summer and were having to turn to hardship support to get by. As our world moved online, digital poverty has been exposed like never before. And we face a looming mental health crisis after months of isolation.

That’s why over the past few months Staf, in partnership with Aberlour and RSA Scotland, has begun a conversation with care leavers about financial support and the potential of Universal Basic Income.

We heard how the current system of support is complex and confusing, with too many hoops that young people must jump through before receiving their entitlements. One young person told us:

“It’s shocking that as a young person who has went through the state care system that’s meant to help, love and support you I’m not getting the support that I need, or I’m entitled to? There’s too many hoops, too many hoops.”

A Basic Income, guaranteeing a minimum income and paid without conditions, could be a neat solution to the issues care leavers face. But to determine the next steps we need to co-design a pilot with young people themselves. So over the next few months Staf will bring together experts and senior leaders to discuss how we can scope out a pilot scheme.

Crucially, we need to start with a commitment – from the First Minister down – that no young person leaving care will be allowed to fall into poverty.

Through this work we hope not only to determine whether Basic Income, or indeed a Minimum Income Guarantee, is the key to unlocking care leaver poverty but also to explore the potential to design a better society for all.

Scotland’s Care Review challenged us all to reshape our care system but it is clear that we will only realise its aims for young people if we shape our society too. Let’s get on with it.