All looked-after young people should have the right to stay in care until they are 21, while using bed and breakfast accommodation to house care leavers should be banned.
These are two of the recommendations made by the education committee, which today published a report – “Into Independence: Not Out of Care” – on the options for looked-after young people aged 16 and over.
If enforced, the MPs’ recommendations would mean no young adults were forced to leave care before they turn 21 and only be provided with regulated accommodation.
This would extend the current ‘Staying Put’ policy to young people living in children’s homes, rather than applying to just those in foster care.
“Young people living in residential care homes are often the most vulnerable and should have the right to remain there beyond the age of 18,” the report stated.
Committee chair Graham Stuart said: “Looked-after young people moving towards adulthood deserve a well-supported transition to independence, rather than an abrupt push out of care.”
The report sets out steps the government must take if ministers are to improve care options for young people over 16, and urged the Department for Education (DfE) to “urgently” consult with councils to arrange a suitable time frame for an outright ban on B&Bs.
Natasha Finlayson, chief executive of the Who Cares? Trust, said: “This is a brave and important report from the education committee, which gets to the heart of what it means for the state to act as a parent to these young people.
“We have a moral duty to make sure that young people in care, living in semi-independent or independent housing, have accommodation that is safe, secure, properly regulated, and that they get the level of help and support they need.”
However, Cllr David Simmonds, chair of the Local Government Association’s Children and Young People Board, reacted more cautiously to the report’s proposals, saying more regulation is “no guarantee of quality”.
He drew particular attention to the proposed ban on B&B placements, saying “we must be careful to ensure that any ban on the use of B&Bs does not leave vulnerable young people effectively homeless due to a lack of temporary accommodation”.
Simmonds also took the opportunity to champion and defend the work local authorities are currently doing to improve care services for over 16s.
He said: “The DfE’s Innovation Programme has a particular focus on care options for adolescents, and several councils are already developing innovative proposals to tackle this issue locally.
“Councils across the country will be keen to learn from the experiences of these trailblazers, and it is important that these projects are given the time and space to develop before existing provision is removed whole-scale.”