Where’s the support?

When the Children (Leaving Care) Act 2000 came into force many were hopeful that it would change things for care leavers who all too often are left to fend for themselves with little support at just 16. Six years on, while many young people are having positive leaving care experiences, too many are still being forced to live independently before they are ready.

The act obliges local authorities to help care leavers until they are 21 but it is cheaper for councils to provide financial help in independent accommodation than keep young people in care.

While the average age of a young person leaving their family home is 23, too many care leavers are simply being “left to get on with it” at a much younger age, according to a report from Roger Morgan, the children’s rights director for England. And while they wait for a promised flat, they are placed in dodgy, dirty hostels or B&Bs, sharing accommodation with adults who may have a bad influence on them. Little wonder that they feel abandoned by the system.

The act requires local authorities to agree a leaving care plan with young people. For many this never materialises and they are often given no notice that they are leaving care. As a result care leavers are being left at high risk of ending up in prostitution, addicted to drugs or homeless.

A green paper on looked-after children is due out this spring. Much of the focus will no doubt be on educational achievement but it should also look at the leaving care system, as it is clear current legislation is not working.

See Councils failing to ensure safety and welfare of care leavers, finds report

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