Charities seek extension to care leaver support

By Gabriella Jozwiak, Thursday 09 May 2013

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A legal duty to support care leavers until they reach 25 must be introduced if outcomes among the group are to improve, a coalition of charities has stated.

Independent living

The Care Leavers Coalition say 18 is too young for a young person to be without a parent. Image: Malcolm Case-Green

The Care Leavers Coalition is calling on the government to insert changes into the Children & Families Bill, which they say would help care leavers achieve higher academic standards and reduce the number who become unemployed.

The seven organisations, including Barnardo’s and Catch22, want the bill to raise the cut-off age for support – including access to virtual school heads – for care leavers from 21 to 25.

They also want legislation to allow children in foster care to remain with their foster carers until they are at least 21.

The coalition has laid out the proposals in a report that argues that corporate parenting provided by local authorities should not end at 18, just as “no reasonable parent would leave their child to fend for themselves at 18”.

Emma James, research and policy officer at Barnardo's, said the suggestions would help fulfill the coalition's intention for the bill to create “a big change in the way we look after children when they leave care”.

“The leaving care system is not working,” said James. “It’s failing vulnerable young people who when they leave the system have low outcomes. This needs to change.”

James said foster carers and providers currently working with care leavers would back the changes if they came into force.

“There are foster carers who want to continue to support the young people who have been living with them but cannot afford to do so,” she said. 

“Virtual head teachers know that care leavers need additional support and guidance that other young people do not.”

Sally Morris, executive director for young people and families at Catch22, said the coalition’s proposals would “make a real difference to the lives of more than 10,000 care leavers across England”.

“Given the poor outcomes many care leavers experience in terms of education, health, offending and employment, this is an opportunity to think differently about how the state delivers support to care leavers and how it can more effectively harness the expertise and experience of the voluntary sector in delivering effective support to this important group of young people.”

Statistics published by the coalition suggest 23 per cent of the adult prison population has spent time in care.

Educational attainment is also lower, with just 12.8 per cent of children achieving the minimum five good GCSE grades including maths and English in 2011, compared to 57.9 per cent among other children.

The coalition includes Barnardo’s, the Care Leavers' Association, Catch22, the Fostering Network, Tact, Voice and the Who Cares? Trust.

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