Left to Right: Jane Walker, Headteacher of Northumberland County Council’s Virtual School, John Johnston, Bernicia Chief Executive and Jenny Allinson, Bernicia Director of Corporate Governance, signing the covenant

Bernicia has become the first organisation outside the public sector to sign a Northumberland County Council pledge to help young people leaving care achieve their ambitions.

The council’s Care Leaver Covenant 2023+ renews the local authority’s promise to provide care-experienced young people aged 16 to 25 with additional support in five key areas: independent living, education, employment and training safety and security, mental and physical health and finance.

Other public, private and voluntary organisations across the county are invited to sign the covenant to join the council in providing additional opportunities and expertise.

Bernicia is ideally placed to support the council’s ambitious strategy, having invested £2m in helping tenants and people in local communities access job opportunities – creating a team of employability experts to drive this work forward.


Bernicia already works closely with care leavers, helping young people with employment advice, work experience, job applications and interviews. It aims to expand the work it does in this area.

The support provided increases the skills and knowledge needed to hold down a job and manage financial affairs and domestic arrangements.

It also promotes social and emotional confidence to build the resilience needed to face the challenges of day-to-day life.

Bernicia Chief Executive John Johnston said: “We’re proud to support Northumberland with this renewed commitment. Our dedicated employability team has a strong focus on improving care leavers’ access to education, employment and training.

“We are expanding our offer to care leavers month by month as we have seen the positive outcomes our work is having.”

When a child comes into care, the local authority becomes the corporate parent, meaning every councillor and officer within the council and partner agencies has a responsibility to provide care for those children as a parent would for their own child.

Leader of Northumberland County Council, Glen Sanderson, said: “We want all our young people in Northumberland to get the best out of life and reach their potential.

“We take our corporate parenting responsibilities very seriously and want to support the young people in our care and our care leavers to thrive and fulfil their ambitions.

“Our partners play a vital role in helping us to achieve this, especially by offering employment and training opportunities, and we are delighted to welcome Bernicia on board and thank them for their support.”

Northumberland County Council provides a comprehensive support programme for care leavers, through its Care Leavers Local Offer.

Jane Walker, Headteacher of Northumberland County Council’s Virtual School, which champions the education outcomes of care-experienced young people, said: “We are delighted that Bernicia has signed our Care Leaver Covenant, recognising the outstanding offer that has been made to our young people to create opportunities in the employment sector and providing a service above and beyond our expectations.

“Bernicia has put its social values into action and we’re proud to partner with a local private sector company.

“Bernicia is leading by example and we hope other private sector colleagues will be encouraged to get on board as well.”

The council’s Care Leavers Covenant has five outcomes:

  • Independent living – ensuring care leavers are better prepared and supported to live on their own
  • Employment, education and training – providing care leavers improved access to work and skills
  • Safety and security – working to make sure care leavers have stability in their lives and feel safe and secure
  • Health – ensuring care leavers have greater access to health and emotional support
  • Finance – helping care leavers achieve financial stability