The transition from care to independence is a time of upheaval – and often little support – writes care leaver Fatmata
Fatmata, 17: When you are in care, you expect your foster carer to prepare you for when you leave home and start living independently. But in many cases this is not so, especially if there is a cultural difference between the child and the foster carer. Another reason could be that foster carers haven’t received appropriate training to prepare young people for the realities of the big world.
All this means that when the young person moves to semi-independence or independent living they are faced with many difficulties, such as not having basic skills like budgeting, cooking and managing their studies. Many young people in care aged 16-plus are worried that they won’t know what to do when they get their own flat simply because they are not given enough information.
As a 17-year-old living semi-independently, I am now experiencing the difficulties of managing my life and studying at the same time. I met 19-year-old Ashley who lives in a bedsit. He has gone through the process of moving from foster home to semi-independence and now lives independently. This is what he had to tell me about his experiences:
Fatmata: Did you have any training to prepare you to live on your own?
Ashley: When I was in foster care, I didn’t pay any attention to my future plans or what was going on around me because I had studies to deal with. But when I found out that I was going to leave my foster home and move into semi-independent accommodation at the age of 16, it was too late to prepare myself.
Fatmata: Were you told by your foster carer, social worker or personal adviser what to expect when you turned 18 and got your new independent accommodation?
Ashley: No. I had no idea what to expect.
Fatmata: When you were given your new flat, what was it like?
Ashley: It was not decorated. It was unwelcoming, filthy and empty.
Fatmata: Did the fact that you were on your own and had to manage with what you were given affect your studies?
Ashley: Yes! Most definitely. At the time when I got my flat, I had my exams and other serious issues that I had to deal with. The worst thing was that I didn’t have enough support, which had an impact on my education.
Fatmata: Is there anything you would want to see improved in this process?
Ashley: I think there should be more support for young people as soon as they hit 16. Young people should be told what to expect when they get their own accommodation and there should definitely be a viewing of the house before they move in.
Road to independence
Suggestions to equip young people for independent living:
● Foster carers should be trained to prepare young people for living independently.
Rooms for improvement
This is what Vision Of Success, a consultation group for children and young people in Lambeth, London, thinks about the condition of accommodation given to young people:
● Not enough inspections and renovation before a young person moves in.
Finally, some good news
Earlier this year, Vision of Success successfully applied for the Youth Opportunity Fund. The money will be used to deliver a service to young people aged 16-18 to help them prepare for independent living. This project will be run by young people to train others in the care system.
This article appeared in the 13 September issue, under the headline “‘Dirty and empty: my first flat'”