Stand by our care leavers

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Everyone knows that teenage years can be tough, but teenage years for young people in care are much tougher.

For this reason supporting young people as they move out of care is vital, so that they get the best possible start to adult life.

This year’s report by Ofsted into the experience of looked-after children and care leavers said they were “much more likely to experience mental health difficulties than other children, with 37% being assessed as having a score for emotional well-being that gives cause for concern”.

The Children and Social Work Bill is a unique opportunity to provide proper mental health and emotional support for this group of young people and the guarantee of somewhere safe to live.

We want all children in care and care leavers to be offered a mental health assessment by a qualified professional and then given the support to meet their needs.

Barnardo’s runs services across the UK which aim to bridge the gap for thousands of teenagers and young people as they leave care and, while we know they benefit from our services, we believe these vulnerable young people should be entitled to more help.

We should remember these young people, through no fault of their own, have often had a very rough start in life. Despite that, they can be forced to become independent much younger than other children.

Barnardo’s is asking for all care leavers, not just those in foster care, to be offered safe and suitable accommodation up to the age of 21.

The Government’s own figures show that nearly one in five care leavers aged 19 to 21, either live in unsuitable accommodation or there is no record of where they are living.

In her speech to the Conservative Party Conference in October, Theresa May, said “our society should work for everyone”. At Barnardo’s we couldn’t agree more and we urge Theresa May to follow up on those pledges to make sure we stand by our care leavers.

Steve Oversby

Director Barnardo’s East Region