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Care leavers feel inadequately prepared for independent living

Over a third of people leaving the care system felt they had to leave whether they were ready or not, according to a report by Ofsted.

The inspectorate highlights the lack of choice many care leavers experienced when leaving care. While local authorities are required to prepare children for leaving care, Ofsted’s report finds variance in the experiences of care leavers, with many being unaware of the support they are entitled to.

Yvette Stanley, Ofsted’s National Director for Social Care, said: “The transition out of care can be a daunting prospect for many. It’s so important that children feel prepared with the skills they need to live independently and a support network there to help them if they need it. Unfortunately, many of the young people we spoke to felt they left care before they were ready and didn’t know where to turn to for help.”

A nationwide survey and follow-up interviews revealed how many care leavers said they were not aware of the different kinds of support they are entitled to. Many admitted to feeling isolated and not knowing who to turn to for help after leaving care.

Statutory guidance requires children in care to be introduced to their personal advisor (PA) from age 16 to support them as they leave care. However, this was not always the case. The report found:

  • More than one quarter did not meet their PA until they were 18 or older, and a fifth of care leavers said they met their PA too late.
  • Only around half remembered being told about the help available to them in their local area.
  • Just half reported being told how to complain about the support, or lack of, they received and even fewer were told how to get advocacy support.
  • A third of respondents said that they did not know who to contact in an emergency.
  • A quarter (24%) said they had to find out on their own who they should contact.
  • Worrying about money was the most common reason young people felt unsafe after leaving care, and several attributed money-related problems in later life to a lack of financial preparation.

Children in care currently seemed to fare better with the majority reporting that they are getting help with their money skills.

However, overall the report suggests that there is more for corporate parents to do to give children leaving care the support and help they need.

Yvette Stanley, Ofsted’s National Director for Social Care, said: “The insights these young people have shared with us strike a powerful chord and are valuable in identifying how things can be improved for care leavers. We will continue to draw on these findings in our future research and as we make improvements to our inspection work so that it always reflects what matters most to children in care and care leavers.”

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