Young people going through the care system already have plenty to deal with.

As the numbers in care continue to rise, its is all too easy for us all to ignore their difficulties.

The Care Leaver Covenant is a promise made by organisations across the private, public and voluntary sectors to provide support for care leavers aged 16-25 to help them to live independently.

A care leaver is a person, aged 16 to 25, who has spent time in care as a child.

Paths to positivity

Being young and in care is a difficult journey to manage.

Already missing out on a functioning birth family environment, these young people often feel discarded by society and struggling for purpose in life.

Providing them with opportunities that are all too common for the rest of us growing up, is essential in building their sense of self-worth, supported independence, and a positive outlook for their futures.

Learning to drive remains an important ‘rites of passage’ for care leavers, and is perhaps more important for them than just passing the driving test.

Theoretical reality

The AA Charitable Trust has been working to help care leavers access driving lessons since 2011.

As part of that work, the Trust found that the theory test can be a particular challenge. Helping these young people learn and pass this first hurdle in the process is a fundamental building block on their journey to independent, purposeful adulthood.

Rates of passing the driving theory test are at an historic low, and for those coming out of care the challenge is even greater.

Learners’ chances of passing their theory test have dropped by a third since 2007/08 from 65.4% to just 44.2% in 2022/23*.

Building up numbers

So far, the Trust has funded 4,000 free downloads of the AA Driving School Theory Test App for young people who have spent some time in care. It is just one piece of support available for some of these young people, but can play a massive part in improving their outlooks.

However, the Trust has worked to help care leavers access driving lessons since 2011. Then it ran a pilot project with Bristol University and Bristol City Council, funding lessons for young people within the care system.

More recently it has supported Live Unlimited. This is a charity dedicated to supporting care experienced young people in Barnet, with its Driving Ahead scheme. Recently the AA Charitable Trust has also offered their Theory App free to participants of this scheme.

Supporting these young people is essential as they navigate the complex and challenging road of independent life.

This offer  from the AA Charitable Trust is accessible to all care leavers who are registered with the Care Leaver Covenant.

Answering the challenge

Edmund King, Director of the AA Charitable Trust, states: “We know from our work teaching care leavers to drive that the theory test can be a particular challenge. When you couple that with the historic low in theory test pass rates, it’s clear that something should be done to help care experienced young people achieve this milestone.

“Being able to drive is vital for many people’s employment and education, but without familial support it is often out of reach for people who have experienced the care system.

“Programmes like the Care Leaver Covenant and Live Unlimited do a phenomenal job in supporting care experienced people and we are delighted to be able to launch this offer to help support their work.”

Social inclusion

Matthew Gordon, Chief Executive of Spectra, the social impact company which delivers the Care Leaver Covenant programme for the Department for Education, says: “One of the most important pillars in establishing independence for care leavers is the ability to reach places, not least for education and work. So, The AA Driving School Theory test app will be a big help to our young people preparing to take their driving test.

“This great offer from The AA Charitable Trust underlines our message to care leavers: you are wanted.”

Sue Cocker, Operations Director for Live Unlimited, is proud of the collaboration and believes it makes real difference to these young people.

Cocker says it “has resulted in 19 young people gaining their driving licences to date”.

“We also know that passing the theory test is a hurdle which some care experienced young people can really struggle with.”

She adds that “providing this theory test app free of charge for care leavers is a fantastic asset, helping more young people to unlock the opportunities that gaining a driving licence can really bring.”