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My Review of Leaving Care Homes at 18

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To obtain better insights into the sectors that we operate in, we occasionally ask external people to write blogs in order to give a wider representation. If you have any queries on this or wish to see if you can have your own blog submitted (either anonymously or with your name attached) please contact me and I can request this on your behalf. This one below is written by Renda D from Liverpool.

I remember being 18, having been brought up solely by my father. He had taught me that I could achieve anything I put my mind to.

It felt reassuring, acknowledging that my father was there by my side, to help me in planning a pathway leading to my independence, wondering where my ambition and determination would lead me. Although I’d grown up without a mother, it hadn’t mattered to me, because I’d reached my first major step to a career having achieved a placement at Liverpool John Moore’s University. I’d felt so much gratitude towards my father, for being my rock having given me the care and support any young person would need.

Acknowledging that there are 18 year olds out there, living in care homes, having to make their own way in the world, makes me so grateful for the childhood I’d had. I honestly couldn’t imagine only relying on strangers, to then be told I had to map out a future for myself alone, and prepare to stand on my own two feet. I can only imagine the fear and worry these care leavers go through.

I think that children in care homes should only prepare to leave when they are ready to face the outside world, having gained the support required to go into further education, employment and settlement in to their own home.

What the Local Authority says

Local councils state that care leavers must be given support until they are 21 years of age. The leaving process begins with a meeting with a Social Worker, Carer and Personal Adviser at 16 in which a plan is prepared to help with the transition from care to independent life. At 18 they are no longer in care and at 21 help and advice is given from their Local Authority for a longer period of time if still in further education.

There are approximately 70,000 children in care in Britain, with the vast majority living with foster families, and 6,000 in care homes.

Having read some distressing stories by care leavers, many described the pressure of leaving as abrupt. Oliver was a care leaver, and he describes his experience of leaving his care home here .

Those that were living in care homes felt that they hadn’t had the level of post leaving support, when they needed it the most and that they often felt isolated and lonely. Is it right that they leave care when they feel they’re not ready?

Many have claimed that they are terrified of leaving care and struggle to settle in the ‘outside world’. Imagine feeling you’d been left in the dark, uncertain of what you are doing and what is going on around you. One minute everything is being done for you, and the next you feel you have to fend for yourself.

Long term prospects for care leavers

The long term prospects for care leavers are somewhat challenging, since of the adult prison population, 27 per cent have been in care at some point in time. A staggering 40 per cent of prisoners under 21 years of age, have been in care as children, and 70 per cent of women working in prostitution.

New figures revealed the long term cost to Britain ‘picking up the pieces’ from damaging social problem, affecting young people, stood at a whopping £17 billion a year. Consistent research has shown that leaving care before a young person is ready for independence, tends to lead to poorer outcomes, with mental health, depression and debt being major issues. If support is given up until at least 21 years of age, falling into difficulty and imposing a financial burden on other services and the state, is much less likely.

What can be done to help?

A system should be in place where Social Workers are able to invest more time in relationship building, adjacent to filling in forms and assessments. Continuity and support is needed, having people in their lives who will take on a parental role in the absence of a guarding figure.

When leaving care, young people may be taught the basics of everyday life like cooking, cleaning and budgeting, but no-one can prepare them for what it is like to be home alone at night with nobody to talk to, rely on and care for them. This is what often tempts them to move in with the wrong crowd of people, building a bad circle of friends due to the need of companionship and the feel of belonging. I think it’s clear to say that support and a stable home is mandatory, if a successful future is to be achieved.

I believe they deserve the best start in life, just like everyone else.

What do you think?
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