Care leavers as young as 16 are still being placed in “unsavoury” bedsits because of fundamental weaknesses in the law designed to protect them, according to a charity.
The Care Leavers’ Association has called on the government to strengthen the Children (Leaving Care) Act 2000 to prevent young people being discharged from care before the age of 18.
Although it acknowledges that the Act has brought significant benefits, the association believes it has not provided the safety net campaigners had hoped for.
The act obliged local authorities to assist care leavers until they reach 21 but they can still be discharged from the age of 16 through the so called “relevant child” category, which the association insists must be removed.
The CLA said it was cheaper for councils to provide financial assistance to care leavers in independent accommodation than keep them in care, and too easy to let them leave at 16 if they requested it.
It also called for the development of national leaving care accommodation standards to ensure that placements were safe and stable.
CLA secretary Jim Goddard said some care leavers ended up in bedsits, sharing houses with “some fairly unsavoury characters” or dumped on estates.
And the association said the government must remove the need for care leavers to start further or higher education by 21 to remain eligible for support.