Adults who have spent time in care as children are an underrepresented group in our society. At present, there are over 60,000 children in care in England. In the past, it has been even higher (often over 100,000). About 0.5 to 1% of all children in the UK are in care. Each year, about 6-7,000 young people leave care, mostly aged between 16 and 18, in order to begin adult life. There are over 350,000 adults in the UK who spent some or all of their childhood in care.
Time that each of these individuals spent in the care system varies, from less than one year to the full 18 years of childhood. The effects of these years in care can be long-lasting. Also, many care leavers experience discrimination towards those who have been in care, who see them as having been difficult, criminal or inadequate children. This is far from the truth. UK Government figures show that over 60% of children are in care because they have been abused by others (usually their parents), while less then 5% are in care due to their own behaviour.
Many young care leavers find major barriers in the way of them leading a successful and independent adult life. However, we don’t just focus on issues facing younger care leavers. We also care about issues affecting older care leavers. These issues include the long-term effects of historic abuse and care leavers gaining access to their personal child care records.
It was for such reasons that, in 2000, The Care Leavers’ Association (CLA) was formed. The CLA was based on members of the previous National Care Leavers Association and aims to provide a group of adult care leavers of all ages to fight for support and justice for all care leavers. We have gradually become more organised and active and are both a registered company and a registered charity. We have an in office in Manchester, two members of staff and a group of committed volunteers. We also have members from all over the UK and some from other countries.
After our inaugural conference in 2001 we gained some funding and employed a development worker for a short time. We then built up a small core membership before organising another conference in 2003, gaining further funding and a paid worker and moving into our first office in 2004. We have always been based in Manchester but have moved around as funding and staff have risen. We have held meetings all over the UK and been active on a number of fronts.