Care Leavers’ Week highlights challenges faced by ‘invisible minority’
This year’s National Care Leavers’ Week is helping to highlight the key issues faced by an ‘invisible minority’ of young adults within our community.
Organised by an independent charity, the Care Leavers’ Foundation, this week aims to focus the public’s mind on the need to support a uniquely vulnerable group – who having survived a turbulent childhood can experience huge challenges as they enter adulthood.
The Foundation says: “Through no fault of their own, many care leavers will have lived in more than 20 different foster placements and children’s homes by the time they leave care. Many of the brightest will leave care with no educational qualifications because of the amount of disruption in their young lives.
“Too many care leavers simply can’t cope with life in the adult world and may end up as rough sleepers, drug users or offenders.”
The Care Leavers’ Foundation is particularly keen that politicians take action to address these problems, and it appears the government has been paying attention as it has taken a number of steps to remedy these issues over the last year.
The Secretary of State for Children & Families, Edward Timpson, has stated that his priority is to improve the stability of placements and reduce disruption to the lives of children in care. This is vital, as we currently have a situation where 11% of looked-after children will experience three or more placements each year.
One of the best ways to resolve this problem is to tackle the national shortage of foster carers. We are in desperate need of people who are willing to provide a safe and secure home to these young people over the long term.
Another way to address the problems faced by young people leaving care is to provide greater assistance at the point when they make the transition into adulthood. When young people turn 18 they are expected to make a series of life defining decisions over work, training and education – and start managing relationships in adult environments, take care of their own finances, etc. It’s a difficult time.
Most young people are able to rely on the support of their families at this stage of life but our care leavers, some of the most vulnerable people in our society, often have to stand on their own two feet.
A recent change to legislation is, however, starting to make a big difference here. An amendment to the Children Act has made it possible for young people to ‘stay put’ in their carer’s home, if both parties agree, to the age of 21 years-old. According to The Fostering Network, nearly three quarters of foster carers, who are looking after young people over the age of 16, now expect them to stay for more than a year and 40% think they will stay for more than three years.
In response to this legislative change, Perpetual Care Group’s Choices team has developed our Shared Lives scheme, which is already supporting foster carer’s who are providing long term care to young people beyond the age of 18.
If would like to know more about Shared Lives or if you believe you could provide long term foster care, and would like more information about the support available to you, please contact our support team via the website or by calling 0845 0740076.