Care leavers feel they left care too early, Ofsted research shows

Fiona Simpson
Wednesday, January 19, 2022

More than a third of care leavers feel they left care too early and report feeling “lonely”, “unsafe” and unable to manage finances, a new report by Ofsted reveals.

Care leavers said they felt unsafe living alone. Picture: Adobe Stock
Care leavers said they felt unsafe living alone. Picture: Adobe Stock

The inspectorate’s new report Ready or not: care leavers’ views of preparing to leave care notes that those who believe they left care too early said the transition had happened “abruptly” and they were not ready for the sudden change.

“Of those who did feel that they left care at the right time, not all felt they had the required skills to live more independently. Many care leavers told us that they were not taught essential skills, such as how to shop, cook or manage money,” the report states.

A third of care leavers told researchers that they did not know where to get help and support, including mental health support, when they left care, which left them feeling “lonely and isolated”. 

Despite statutory guidance stating that a young person in care should meet their personal adviser when they turn 16, a quarter of care leavers said they did not meet their personal adviser until they were 18 or older.

Some care leavers told Ofsted that they could not trust or rely on the professionals helping them to prepare for leaving care. 

“Care leavers needed someone they could rely on for help when they felt scared or worried, but sometimes they felt that professionals were ‘rude’ or ‘uninterested’, or showed a lack of respect, for example by cancelling meetings, turning up late or ignoring their feelings,” the report states.

Meanwhile, a fifth of care leavers told the inspectorate that they had not been consulted over their preferred location to live when they left care with one in 10 saying they had felt unsafe in the area they had been placed.

The report explains that “many care leavers were worried about the area or people where they lived”.

“Sometimes the area was completely unfamiliar to them or was seen as a crime and exploitation hot spot. Many care leavers also felt unsafe living on their own,” it adds.

The report, which is based on evidence collected via an online survey from young people aged 16 and above in care and care leavers, as well as interviews with six care leavers aged over 26.

Those who took part in the research said the most important elements of leaving care included feeling ready, being involved in decisions about their future, learning skills including money management, shopping and cooking and meeting their personal adviser.

Ofsted has vowed to improve training for inspectors and review inspection guidelines to better report on the experience and progress of care leavers.

Yvette Stanley, Ofsted’s national director for social care, said: “The transition out of care can be a daunting prospect for many. It’s so important that children feel prepared with the skills they need to live independently and a support network there to help them if they need it. Unfortunately, many of the young people we spoke to felt they left care before they were ready and didn’t know where to turn to for help.

“The insights these young people have shared with us strike a powerful chord and are valuable in identifying how things can be improved for care leavers. We will continue to draw on these findings in our future research and as we make improvements to our inspection work so that it always reflects what matters most to children in care and care leavers.”

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