Should vulnerable young people be allowed to stay in care until they are aged 25?

Posted on 09 July 2015 in All news

“Vulnerable young people should be allowed to stay in care until they are aged 25.” The government’s children’s commissioner for England.

A recent Nottingham University survey of 3,000 children and young adults, found that nearly a third of felt they were forced to fend for themselves too early, that they were not ready to set out on their own at 18 and were confused as to why they no longer lived with their parents.

10,000 16-18 year olds leave care each year.

Anne Longfield OBE, Children’s Commissioner stated “most parents would not wave goodbye to children at 18 and we shouldn’t do so for children in care. This group of young people are probably the most vulnerable, often having suffered from extreme neglect, abuse and sometimes trauma. They are no longer living with their parents and have often not had stable placements. They need support as they go into their adult life. 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 well-being for the future will help them to do so.”

Anne Longfield’s son had recently moved back to the family home at 22 years old and it highlighted to her the injustice and the lack of support there is for children in care.

39.6% of children in care have been moved around up to three times in the last year.

There are currently about 69,000 children in care in the UK. Those still in education can stay in foster care until 25 years old however this only helps a minority, as only 6 percent of care leavers attend university, compared to the 38 percent of the general population. Some foster carers allow children to stay until 21, but children’s homes do not accommodate over those 18 years old.

“The depressing route from care to custody.” Juliet Lyon director of Prison Reform Trust.

An independent review, by The Prison Reform Trust, into why so many children in care in England and Wales end up in the criminal justice system, revealed children between the ages of 10 to 17 in care are five times more likely to be in trouble with the law than others.

Evidently the findings show that nearly two thirds of children in care are there in the first place because they have suffered abuse or neglect and only a small 2% are primarily taken into care because of their own socially unacceptable behaviour. Now being a victim of abuse is by no means an excuse for criminal behaviour, but nor should the care system be a stepping stone for children to have a life behind bars. Clearly we need to listen to vulnerable children, about how they were drawn into trouble and how we can eliminate it in the future.

The impact of Parental involvement on children’s education.

In 2007 a research survey was constructed by the Department for Children, Schools and Families to see the impact parental involvement has on children’s education from an early age. The dominant finding was that parental involvement has a significant effect on children’s educational achievement and continues to do so into adolescence and adulthood. Parental involvement has been proved vital for cognitive and social development. In the early years parental involvement has been found to achieve more valuable outcomes. It is palpable that parental involvement is vital and should warrant the same responsibility for carers.

How quickly do you find out if one of your looked after children has been excluded?

Looked After Call from Contact Group, monitors looked after children’s attendance and progress for both in and out of area children. It works by using their calling team and automatic data collection. Looked After Call provides a direct insight into a schools Management Information System (MIS) for a Virtual School to monitor their looked after children’s progress. Should a school or organisation not have an MIS, the calling team will make contact directly with them to collect exactly the same information, thus ensuring Looked After Call provides immediate information to the Virtual School.

The system gathers data on vulnerable children from schools and establishments. This data can be viewed online in real time by the Virtual School and it can be interrogated to show attendance, personal details, assessment SEN status, behaviour, school history and exclusions.

The system alerts to immediate changes in school places, moves of children, absent students and those that have been excluded, ensuring safeguarding requirements are met and interventions can be made.

‘You’re a kid in care, you’re never going to get out of this way of life’.”

It is proven that school absences and exclusions substantially disadvantage those children from their peers. There is also a clear link between poor attendance at school and low levels of achievement. Children in care are already at a disadvantage before they have even arrived at school. Looked After Call encompasses parental involvement and ensures that the Virtual School has all the information to discuss, challenge and resolve queries regarding a child’s attendance.


Blog post by Amelia Watson