Britain’s care system is ‘turning its back’ on some of the most vulnerable young people, a leading charity has said.
Action for Children warns that young people in the most difficult situations are leaving the care system too young and without crucial life skills.
Young people in care, many of which have learning difficulties or mental health issues, are not being given the right help and support early enough to enable them to live independently and reduce the probability of becoming homeless.
While young people in foster care often stay until they are 21 years-of-age, the risk of becoming homeless rises for young people in residential care, who do not have stable placements and can leave before they reach 18 years-of-age.
Sir Tony Hawkhead, chief executive of Action for Children, said:
“Young people who have had traumatic early lives, who struggle with learning disabilities or mental health issues are the ones who need the most care, but the state is turning its back on them.
“It’s ludicrous that teenagers who are still dealing with the legacy of abuse and neglect have to cope with adult responsibilities, like building a stable home, at an age when most of their peers are supported by parents.
“If we don’t rethink care so it acts less like a system and more like a parent then these problems won’t go away.”
Action for Children interviewed 31 ‘marginalised’ young people in England and Wales, for its new report ‘Too Much, Too Young’, about their experiences of finding a home after they left the care system.
Researchers found that without the correct emotional support, young people leaving the care system struggle to cope with living an independent life.
Some young people move in with a family members, but the charity says this can be ‘difficult’ and lead to ‘further instability’
The charity is calling on all political parties to prioritise the emotional and mental health of children in care. They should also help to ensure that young people, who return to their families after leaving the care system, are kept safe and free from risk.
We should not ‘give up on young people when their lives are at the most challenging’, say Action for Children.