Bedsit misery of young care leavers

Care leavers as young as 16 are still being placed in “unsavoury” bedsits because of fundamental weaknesses in the law intended 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 they are 18.

Although the association  acknowledges that the act has brought significant benefits, it believes it has failed to provide the safety net campaigners had hoped for. The act obliges councils to help care leavers until they are 21 but they can still be discharged from age 16 through the “relevant child” category, which the association insists must be removed.

The association said it was cheaper for councils to provide financial help for 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.

Association 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.

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