Care leavers in Oxfordshire banking on an independent future

Young people leaving care in Oxfordshire are likely to be making a dash to the bank, thanks to a new initiative recently launched by Metro Bank and the Care Leaver Covenant, working in partnership with Oxfordshire County Council.

Metro Bank in Oxford has been working with the council’s children services team and Care Leaver Covenant to better understand the challenges care leavers face.

The bank’s staff can now support care leavers with opening a bank account and teaching them money management tips, allowing them to begin investing in their independence.

Councillor Steve Harrod, Oxfordshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Children and Family Services, said: “We’re delighted to have worked with Metro Bank on supporting young care leavers in their journey to adulthood. The process the bank has implemented means care leavers in Oxford and across the UK will be able to open a bank account regardless of their difficult circumstances, which previously has created a barrier to financial independence.”

Isobel, age 19, from Oxford, is one of the first young people to use the scheme. She describes what it means to her:

"With my work I need a bank account because it gives me a bit of independence. Instead of payslips having to be sent to someone else, I can manage my own money and learn to save, and when to spend and when not to. That’s been really important to me since I got a job. It’s an account I can easily manage my money through.

"Having a bank account allows you to start focusing on what you want to do. If you want to buy yourself a nice lunch you don’t have to ask someone else. It gives you a bit of independence and confidence.”

The Care Leaver Covenant - funded by the Department for Education and delivered by social value agency Spectra – works with organisations to provide support for care leavers aged 16 - 25 to help them to live independently.

The covenant encourages organisations to adjust their practices to cater for young people who have aged out of care and works with its partner organisations, such as Metro Bank, to implement schemes specifically designed to create equal opportunities for care leavers.

Mark Rogers, Chair of the Care Leaver Covenant, said: “We are grateful to Metro Bank for carrying out this new initiative and ask all organisations to recognise that they can play a role in improving prospects for care leavers. By introducing packages of support which level the playing field for them, organisations can ensure care leavers have the same opportunities as all young people so that they can lead healthy, happy and successful lives.

“We are dedicated to recognising and challenging the inequalities and injustices care leavers face, and we specifically ask business leaders to consider how these barriers can place care experienced young people at a disadvantage.”

Kat Robinson, Customer Experience Director of Metro Bank, said: “We’re thrilled to be launching our care leavers initiative at our Oxford store, helping to empower local care leavers as they grow into adult life. Historically, many people leaving care have struggled to open bank accounts, automatically putting them on the back foot when it comes to their future prospects. As a community bank, we’re proud to have delivered a much friendlier bank account opening process. Thank you to Oxfordshire County Council who have connected us with the young care leavers they support.”

Piloted in Oxford, Metro Bank’s support for care leavers is now available in all of its 77 stores across the UK.