Care Experience: A Protected Characteristic?

Author: TACT

This week, TACT continues to reflect on Care Leavers’ Week 2023 by celebrating our care-experienced people and demonstrating how we C.A.R.E.

We also take this opportunity to raise the voices of our care-experienced young people and adults by sharing views on topics which are important to them – such as the current debate and campaign about care experience becoming a protected characteristic by law.

What is a protected characteristic?

These are personal characteristics that are protected against discrimination under the Equality Act 2010 and include age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation. If being in care was added to this list, it would make it illegal for employers, higher education institutions and other organisations to discriminate based on this.


To find out the views of one of our TACT Connect members and Advisors, here is an opinion piece written by Otis. 

Why is it important for care experience to be a protected characteristic?

“Care-experienced characteristics refer to the unique attributes and experiences of individuals who have spent any time in the foster care system, residential care, or other forms of out-of-home care during their childhood. These characteristics can include a range of emotional, psychological, and social factors shaped by their upbringing, circumstances, and environments.

The stigma and discrimination created around being in care can sometimes be explicit and often comes with assumptions about the likely characteristics of children and adults that have care experience. They can also be implicit and are evidenced in the way care experience is discussed in schools, workplaces, and the media. At its worst, this can lead to care-experienced people being refused employment, failing to succeed in education, or facing unfair judgements about their ability to parent when they have children and families of their own.

As a former foster-care-leaver myself, I’ve only experienced subtle biases and comments about my character because of my circumstances, but many others weren’t, and aren’t, so lucky. It is crucial to protect these characteristics because care-experienced people often face significant challenges and vulnerabilities. They may have experienced trauma, disrupted relationships, or a lack of stability in their lives. Protecting these characteristics is very important to ensure their physical and mental well-being, development, and future opportunities.

Recognising care experience as a protected characteristic is important for several reasons:

Equal opportunity: It ensures that individuals with care experience are not discriminated against in various aspects of life, such as employment, education, or housing, allowing them equal opportunities to succeed.

Reducing stigma: It helps reduce the stigma associated with caregiving responsibilities, promoting a more inclusive society where people are not penalised for fulfilling care duties.

Promoting diversity: Protecting care experience as a characteristic contributes to diversity and inclusion efforts, fostering a more equitable and representative society.

Legal protections: It provides a legal framework to address cases of discrimination and harassment related to care experience, ensuring that individuals have recourse when their rights are violated.

Supporting caregivers: Recognising care experience as a protected characteristic acknowledges the importance of caregiving work and supports those who dedicate their time and effort to it.

Social progress: Society benefits from recognising care experience as a protected characteristic by advancing social progress and addressing systemic biases.

In summary, recognising care experience as a protected characteristic is crucial because it promotes equality, reduces discrimination, and supports those with caregiving responsibilities. It helps create a more inclusive and diverse society by legally safeguarding the rights of caregivers and reducing societal stigma associated with their roles. This recognition fosters social progress and ensures that individuals are treated fairly and respectfully, regardless of their care-related duties.”

Otis, TACT Connect Advisor