The UK is drastically failing to support teenagers leaving the care system

The UK is drastically failing to support teenagers leaving the care system

A scathing report from the National Audit Office published Friday has said the current support systems for young people leaving care are “not working effectively.”

Every year around 10,000 16-to 18- year olds leave foster or residential care in England.

Children in care must leave local authority care by their 18th birthday, and local authorities are required to support them until they are 21 years old (or 25 if they are in education or training) as part of the Care Leaver Strategy.

64 per cent of the 59 local authorities inspected by Ofsted had care leavers’ services rated as 'requiring improvement' or 'inadequate' for 2013-14, despite a total of £265m spent on services by local authorities.

The report was pretty damning:

Of children in care, 62 per cent are there because of abuse or neglect. This can have a significant and lasting impact on their mental health and emotional well-being.

Research shows that young people who have had a background in care are more likely than their peers to have poor social outcomes in later life.

The NAO report also produced some equally damning statistics:

  • In 2010, 25 per cent of people who were homeless had been in care at some point in their lives.

  • In 2008, 49 per cent of young men under the age of 21 who had come into contact with the criminal justice system had a care experience.

  • In 2014, 22 per cent of female care leavers became teenage parents.

  • In 2012, it was reported that looked-after children and care leavers were between four and five times more likely to self-harm in adulthood.

Current trends also suggest this may only worsen as demand for support is only increasing: 10,310 young people over the age of 16 left care in 2013-14, up 50 per cent since 2003-04.

Efforts by the government in 2013 to address the issue were touted as a step in the right direction, but ultimately, not enough:

The Care Leaver Strategy was not set up as an effective programme.

There was no strong evidence of government working in an integrated way; limited implementation capability; no regular reporting of progress or outcomes; and no evidence of a sustained effort to continuously improve.

The report comes just four days after reported a ten per cent drop in young people's prospects as they stand today compared to the opportunities their parents had when they were young and a week after the latest Budget, in which housing benefit, tax credits and educational maintenance grants for young people have all been slashed.

More evidence that the UK is failing its young people more than ever.

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