MORE than 90% of young care leavers who are eligible have signed up for the Basic Income pilot scheme in the first six months since it was launched.
Early feedback from care leavers point to the many ways in which the income is being used to enhance their lives, including learning how to manage their money and saving.
Although the pilot scheme is still in its infancy and will be rigorously assessed by an independently appointed evaluation team, one person working with care leavers said it had ‘empowered them to be able to make decisions they weren’t able to before’.
Emma Phipps-Magill, operational director at Voices from Care Cymru, has worked with care experienced young people for more than 30 years and said the pilot scheme was providing them with the opportunities to make positive life choices.
“The difference it has made to their lives has been giving them the opportunity to look at private housing accommodation instead of waiting on social housing lists, being able to travel and learn to drive so they can pass their driving test, and another could go to university, which they weren’t able to before,” she said.
“This is a positive thing for me as we often hear about care leavers not being able to experience things like this and we look at the negatives so much more than the positives.
“The power of the Basic Income pilot scheme is that it empowers young care leavers to be able to make informed financial and independent decisions and enjoy experiences they may not have before.”
The Basic Income pilot provides care leavers turning 18 with the opportunity to receive £1600 (before tax) per month for a period of two years.
Those turning 18 between July 2022 – June 2023 will be eligible.
The £20m pilot scheme aims to set care leavers on a path to live healthy, happy and fulfilling lives.
Since the scheme was launched in July and the first payment was issued in August last year, more than 400 care leavers have enrolled in the pilot scheme.
In the first six months of the pilot there has been a 92% uptake rate based on original estimates of eligibility provided by local authorities.
Minister for Social Justice Jane Hutt said the initial take-up and feedback from young people on the pilot was promising.
“We are beginning to see the benefits this has made to the lives of many young care leavers as we mark six months of the Basic Income pilot scheme.
“For example young people are talking about it allowing them to save to support themselves for the future, and exploring paying for further qualifications which could boost their job and career prospects.
“It is important they learn from this as it can provide a solid foundation to build their lives and not just benefit themselves, but future generations too.
“We are still at an early stage of this process and have a lot to learn about the long-term impact of this pilot, but the take-up and feedback from those enrolled so far is promising.”
Throughout the pilot those eligible have been supported by social services teams and practitioners in navigating the process.
Citizens Advice Cymru have supported 65% of eligible young people on the pilot through a range of financial issues.
The support offered to young people ranges from better off calculations before they decide to enrol on the pilot, financial advice while they are on the pilot and assistance with planning for the point where they stop receiving their payment.
The payments, which 57% have opted to receive monthly and the remaining 43% opting for twice-monthly, aim to help them build a platform for their transition from care into adult life.
They have also been given the option to choose for their rent payments to be made directly to their landlord, reducing the money paid to them, with 33% having done so.