Leaving care has recently been pushed into the spotlight which is brilliant to see as the transition from child to adult can be tricky enough, and even more so if your accommodation and support is changing too. The recent Children and Social Work Act features young people leaving care because the system in place for care leavers still requires vast improvement.
Yet many care leavers are facing obstacles when it comes to leaving the system despite new policies that have been successfully put in place.
Transitioning from child to adult can be an anxiety filled experience for a looked after child. So ensuring that local authorities provide sufficient services is essential. There are problems concerning continuing support for care leavers – they can leave the system and be completely forgotten about.
TACT’s manifesto calls for a relook at personal adviser services for care leavers. It calls for foster carers to be included in the category of personal advisers and also for the Government to make provisions to fully reimburse the local authorities for their personal adviser services. TACT also calls for care leaving services to include unaccompanied asylum seekers in the category of care leavers eligible for the ‘Local Offer’.
The Care Leavers Covenant, can be found in the new ACT, is the latest leaving care policy initiative. It sets out care leavers entitlements and aims to improve support by enabling organisations to pledge support in the form of donations, internships and hopefully much more.
On jobs and skills, the covenant is encouraging all Government departments to sign up and inspire more departments to provide internships for care leavers. The covenant will also extend access to personal adviser services up to the age of 25.
The covenant was also pitched to FE colleges as gaining access to higher education is difficult for care leavers – currently only 6% attend university. Free university tuition fees and apprenticeships for care leavers is a policy TACT are desperate to implement. It would be an encouragement for young people in care to attend university, assisting them in their future aspirations.
Yes, these policies are being put in place, however care leavers are still struggling. TACT heard from one care leaver at the Westminster Education Forum about her experience which highlighted many issues. This care leaver had an apprenticeship that they faced leaving due to financial problems regarding accommodation – they were not on the priority list for their LA’s housing scheme. This displays the disadvantage care leavers have in comparison with their non-looked after peers, who are mostly able to continue living with their parents through higher education or apprenticeships.
A recent case at TACT shows how a young person’s care leaving experience was left wanting. Her foster carer expressed disappointment when her foster child was forced to declare herself homeless, just to get somewhere to move on to. There was no pre-planning by the local authorities even though they were repeatedly told that ‘staying put’ was not an option.
These examples accentuate that there is always more to be done in terms of aiding these young people, especially those leaving care. It is vital that we listen to what young people and care leavers want and need. We must make full use of their input rather than implementing changes that they do not require.
Policy and Research Officer