Government approach to homes for care leavers is failing, says Fostering Network
Call for government to consider amendment of the Children Bill
New Government figures show that the voluntary approach to providing homes for young people in care beyond the age of 18 is not working, according to Fostering Network.
The statistics for looked after children, released by the Department for Education, show that in the year ending 31 March 2013 just 330 young people in England were still living with their foster carers by the age of 19. This is a rise of only 10 from last year, and, given the increase in children in care, is exactly the same percentage as last year – just 5 per cent.
An amendment to ensure that young people in England can stay with their foster carers after their 18th birthday was proposed at the Commons report stage of the Children and Families Bill. Edward Timpson, the children's minister, said in the parliamentary debate that he hoped that recent guidance would improve the current situation. If it does not, he said that he would consider legislation in the future.
Robert Tapsfield, chief executive of the Fostering Network, said:
"The children's minister has made it clear that more children in care should be able to stay with their foster carers beyond the age of 18.
"His belief was that the voluntary approach would work, but despite the Government's expectation that local authorities would improve the situation, these figures very clearly show that this is not the case.
"This is just not good enough, but the solution is in the Government's hands. It has a clear cut opportunity to make a difference right now. The Children and Families Bill goes to committee on 9 October, and we urge the Government to accept the amendment which would give young people the chance to stay with their foster carers and have a better start to their adult lives.
"Sadly care leavers are overrepresented in prison populations, and are more likely to be unemployed, single parents, mental health service users and homeless than those who grew up within their own families. We know that the longer young people stay with their foster carers, the better they do. Yet the vast majority are currently forced to leave their foster family by their 18th birthday, despite the average age for all young people leaving home being 24.
"Care leavers have struggled alone for long enough. It is time for this to stop – the Government simply cannot fail another generation of young people leaving care."