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Care leavers getting “a raw deal” – BASW responds to Ofsted survey

Most children in care believe their lives are better for being removed from their families but want more support in making the transition to adulthood, according to a report, After care: Young people’s views on leaving care, published by Ofsted’s Children’s Rights Director for England, Roger Morgan.

The report found that 61% of care leavers surveyed felt their lives were better than they would have been if they hadn’t been taken into care, with 26% saying their lives were worse. The survey of 308 young people, who had recently left care or were preparing to leave care, also revealed, however, that 46% of care leavers thought they were made to leave too early. Forty nine per cent thought they had been prepared badly or very badly for leaving care.

BASW responded to the findings by calling for all looked-after teenagers to be guaranteed “sustained, quality support from qualified social workers”.

The report heard that many care leavers wanted more practical assistance, including financial advice and insight into how to obtain and use important documents such as passports, birth certificates and national insurance cards. One care leaver told researchers that they had been unable to get a job due to not having their national insurance number.

BASW professional officer Sue Kent said the survey highlighted the need for the state to take its corporate parenting responsibilities more seriously. “These children are getting a raw deal. The average age most people with families leave home is 24-years-old, yet these young people are getting booted out of the system at 16. Once they are no longer the state’s responsibility, they are given no support to make the same transitions from childhood to adulthood that every teenager faces, which makes them extremely vulnerable.”

Pointing out that local authorities and central government are currently cutting spending on career services for young people, Ms Kent said “the care system is not given the same priority as child protection services”.

“Money takes priority over morality when decisions are made about these children. They are not burdens on the state but citizens of it, and they should be helped to reach the milestones and become independent, just like any other child. We want to see young people in care and leaving care receiving sustained, quality support from qualified social workers.

“It is in the government’s best interests to extend its responsibilities towards these children into their 20s, where necessary, perhaps by guaranteeing them work placements or helping with their education. This is not more ‘nanny-stateism’; it would prevent more care leavers entering the criminal justice or mental health system, and be a positive benefit to society.”

The research was based on the views of young people from across 34 different local authority areas in England.