Scottish children’s commissioner Kathleen Marshall has said looked-after young people in the country are being made homeless because they are encouraged to leave care too early.
In a report this week, Marshall warned that vulnerable young people were being “pushed out” on to the streets due to a culture among care workers that 16-year-olds should be given their independence. She said that young people with complex needs were at an even greater risk as workers saw them as a “troublesome burden”.
According to the latest statistics eight times as many young people leave care at 16 as at 18, in contradiction to government policy. The report, based on a survey of Scottish local authorities, found that many 16- and 17-year-old care leavers were not being given sufficient support and were being placed in B&Bs and homeless hostels. The young people were also found to be at greater risk of developing drug and alcohol problems.
Marshall also criticised the lack of information for care-leavers on their entitlements and inadequate training for care home staff.
She called for a prohibition on the use of B&B and homeless hostels as accommodation for care leavers. She said: “Turning 16 should be an exciting prospect, not one that brings the harsh realities of adult life without support, guidance and care.”
The report comes with debate raging in England over whether young people should have the right to stay with foster carers until 21, with charities including the Fostering Network pressing for an amendment to the Children and Young Persons Bill to achieve this.