The Government must make radical changes to the way that care leavers are supported in England, in order to stop failing this group of vulnerable young people, the Care Leavers Coalition warns.
Seven organisations – Barnardo’s, The Care Leavers Association, Catch22, the Fostering Network, TACT, Voice and The Who Cares? Trust – are calling on the Government to reform the system in a new briefing, “Still Our Children”, published today.
Many young people in care will have experienced difficult and often traumatic childhoods and many of them will have been abused or neglected. At the age of 21 years the relationship between the young person and the state often ends abruptly, which can lead to poor outcomes for care leavers.
The coalition call comes as the Queen’s Speech marks the opening of a new Parliament and the Government sets out its plans for the next term. The Children and Families Bill – in which care leavers are not mentioned at all – is reaching a crucial stage as it makes its way through the House of Commons.
The Care Leavers Coalition wants to see three specific changes in the Bill:
- the cut off age for support to be raised from 21 to 25 for all care leavers
- allow children in foster care to remain with their foster carers until they are at least 21 if they wish
- virtual school head teachers to champion the educational attainment of looked after children in each local authority up to the age of 25.
The number of young people aged 16 and over leaving care has risen each year from 8,170 in 2007 to 10,000 in 2012.
The state has a role as corporate parent which the Care Leavers Coalition believes it is failing to fulfil. Changes are needed to improve comparatively low outcomes for care leavers:
- 23 per cent of the adult prison population has spent some time in care
- Around a quarter of those living on the street have a background in care
- Care leavers more than four times more likely to commit suicide in adulthood
- In 2011 just 12.8 per cent of children who had been in care for a minimum of one year obtained five good grade GCSEs, including English and maths; for other children the figure was 57.9 per cent
- The number of 19-year-olds who were looked after when aged 16 years and who are now NEET is 36 per cent, double the number of their non-care contemporaries.
The Care Leavers Coalition will present the briefing to called Still Our Children the House of Commons.
The leaving care experience has a strong impact on a young person’s ability to manage independent living. There is a direct correlation between the age a young person leaves care and their educational attainment. Successful educational outcomes for care leavers are linked to placement stability and being ‘looked after’ longer.