Third of leaving care services scale back provision

By Joe Lepper

| 20 September 2012

Up to a third of leaving care services have been forced to scale back provision because of budget cuts, despite rising numbers of young people requiring support, the National Care Advisory Service (NCAS) has claimed.

Managers said support to help prepare care leavers for independence has been cut. Image: Malcolm Case-Green

The charity surveyed 34 leaving care managers, of which two thirds said they are now working with a larger number of care leavers than in 2011.

The average increase in the number of care leavers being supported by services was 10 per cent, but only two had seen an increase in their budget. 

Managers warned that the cuts are leading to higher case loads, with more than a third saying that they are seeing young people less often than a year ago, and a similar proportion saying that they are “dealing with crises, rather than working proactively”.

Three quarters of the managers surveyed said that young care leavers are also suffering because of a reduction in wider support, such as financial assistance, careers advice and sheltered housing services.

In the areas where financial assistance for care leavers had been cut, half said that support for education and training, such as money for educational equipment, had been reduced. A further 22 per cent said financial support for deposits and advance rent payments for care leavers moving to independent living had been reduced.

One manager said: “Discretionary support from the local authority is now under much tighter scrutiny and the concern is that, as pressures continue to build each year, support for care leavers with things like setting up home do not increase with the cost of living”.

NCAS warned that the number of young care leavers staying on in education or training is at risk of dropping as a result of the cuts. 

NCAS senior policy manager Linda Briheim-Crookall, said: “The state-as-parent has a unique relationship with looked-after children and care leavers and should continue to support them in the transition to adulthood, as any reasonable parent would, especially as they turn 18 and the protections associated with being a looked-after child are withdrawn.”

The charity is urging government to do more to monitor support provided by local authorities to care leavers, and to consult young people on the type of assistance they need.

NCAS also wants central government and local authorities to provide enhanced support for care leavers from every department, not just those relating to children’s services.

“Despite the austerity measures and the impact this has had on services, there is still a potential for delivering good quality support for care leavers by capitalising on the committed workforce that work in leaving care,” Briheim-Crookall said.

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