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3,000 children a year leave care before they are ready: Children’s Commissioner

Half of looked after children do not understand why they are in care

The Children's Commissioner for England is calling for support to be extended to all children who leave care until they are 25 years old after nearly a third of care leavers who responded to the national survey of children in care felt that they had left care before they were ready to fend for themselves.

Of the 2,936 children and young people who responded to the survey, when asked whether they understood why they came into care, more than half who answered said they did not. If this figure was extrapolated to the general population of children in care, the number would be around 35,000 children and young people.  Additionally, only 46% of those who responded to the question knew how to contact an advocate, a service to which they are entitled.

As well as calling for all young people leaving care to be allowed to be supported through to young adulthood, the results of the survey have prompted the Commissioner to recommend that:

A high proportion of children and young people in care have a positive experience.  Eighty one per cent of those who answered  felt they were living in the right place, with many who were in foster care and also those in children's homes valuing being part of a family.

Sarah, a young care leaver who helped to develop the survey said:

"The results of the survey are about wanting to make children and young people have a great life and not just about what they have experienced in the past. They want to have normal lives like everyone else and don't want to be different. The State of the Nation Report is part of changing their lives for the better."

Anne Longfield, Children's Commissioner for England, said:

"It is encouraging that many children and young people have positive experiences of care but there a number of things that would make their lives much better. It is unacceptable that some are not in place already: every child should know why they were taken into care and be involved in decisions about their care.

"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."

The State of the Nation report is here.