Laura Sharman 08 July 2015

Children in care should stay until 25 says commissioner

Young people should be allowed to stay in care until they are 25 years old, with thousands leaving before they are ready, a new survey has revealed.

The survey found that nearly a third of those leaving care felt they did so before they were ready. The Children’s Commissioner for England, Anne Longfield, is now calling for more support for care leavers until they are 25.

The commissioner also said children should keep the same social worker for longer, they should have more say in decisions made about them, and have at least one ‘consistent’ relationship with an adult.

Although 80% of those responding to the survey said they had a positive experience in care, the commissioner also said every child should be given a ‘passport to therapeutic care’ to help them recover from past trauma.

Ms Longfield said: ‘Some recommendations, such as extending the right to support to all care leavers until they are 25 years old, need investment but will prove to bring great benefits. When a child reaches 18, a parent would not wave goodbye to them for good and close the door to them, so we shouldn’t do so for children in care, who more than any of us, need a positive springboard for the future.

‘We also need to do more to offer children the help they need to recover from their difficult past experiences. We know that many children who leave care still struggle to reach their full potential and helping them to overcome their harmful experiences and build their resilience and emotional wellbeing for the future will help them to do so.’

Enver Solomon, director evidence and impact at the National Children’s Bureau and Co-chair of the Alliance for Children in Care and Care Leavers, said: 'The report demonstrates that the care system is far from broken. But it does show a failure to adequately support children to enter the adult world successfully by creating a cut-off at 18 rather than ensuring on-going care until young people reach their mid-twenties.

'No loving parent would leave their child to fend for themselves if they didn’t think they were ready to leave home. The government must learn from the recent change in the law in Scotland, where children can now stay in their care placement up to 21 with support available up to the age of 26. A similar reform in England is long overdue.’

A Department for Education spokesperson said: 'We are committed to improving the lives of care leavers. That is why we have introduced a comprehensive series of reforms since 2010 to help and support them. We have already introduced the Staying Put initiative, which allows all children in foster care to stay with their foster family after they turn 18, and we have invested £44m to help implement this.

'To build on this, we are investing over £100m through the Innovation Programme to develop more effective ways of supporting vulnerable children. And to help them transition into adult life, we are also funding programmes aimed at getting young people leaving care into apprenticeships.

'We welcome the survey’s findings that the vast majority feel they live in the right place, are treated with respect and feel part of the family. But we are not complacent and will continue to work to make sure the all young people, whatever their background, have the best opportunity to achieve their full potential.'

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