A protected characteristic means it’s against the law to discriminate anyone because of their:
Making ‘care experience’ a protected characteristic would mean that people who are in or have been in care would have the same legal protection against discrimination as ten other characteristics under the equality act.
I want every child in care and care experienced person to be able to achieve all their ambitions. People who have interacted with the care system have often had the hardest start in life, so it is up to all of us in positions of responsibility to ensure that nothing holds them back.
That is why I have set out my vision for care leavers, carried out research on children in care maintaining relationships with their siblings, examined the education of looked after children and it’s why I sit on the implementation board for the current reforms to children’s social care.
I established my own Care Experienced Advisory Board to make sure that the voices of children in care and care experienced people are central to all of my work. My team and I regularly visit children in care in a range of settings across the country to make sure their voices are heard and their rights are upheld.
I want to explore every possible avenue for ensuring that all the barriers that care experienced people face to achieving their ambitions are removed. One debate that is currently taking place is about whether care experience should be a ‘protected characteristic’ – like age, disability or religion currently are. You can read more here about what a ‘protected characteristic’ is. Some people I have spoken to argue that this would provide a way to tackle the discrimination care experienced people face, while others suggest that it could create additional stigma, or simply not be effective. But I don’t want this to be a debate that is held about care experienced people, rather than with them – as is too often the case.
That is why I am today launching an opportunity for care experienced people to tell me what they think about this proposal – whether they believe it would make a difference to their lives, or not, and why. I will read all these ideas and want this to be the start of a rich conversation.
To all care experienced people and children in care – please share your views. I want to hear directly from you because it is you who have the true expertise that we should be drawing on.