A study exploring the employment opportunities for care leavers is set to be carried out by researchers from the Rees Centre, University of Oxford and from the University of York.
A grant from the Nuffield Foundation will enable the researchersto carry out a large-scale academic study that will explore in detail what factors, including earlier education and training, contribute to whether care leavers are in employment.
The project will include the first national statistical research to be undertaken in England on the employment of care leavers. The perspectives of care leavers, young people and key people in their lives including foster carers and a range of professionals from local authorities, education and employment sectors will also be gathered through interviews and focus groups.
Principal Investigator Dr Eran Melkman from the Rees Centre said: "Our research aims to explore the trajectories both pre- and post-16 that lead care leavers to better or worse employment outcomes. We also want to identify factors, such as extending foster care beyond age 18, that may be associated with more resilient outcomes. Identifying these factors will assist policy makers and service providers to better support care-experienced young people into employment."
Government statistics show that care leavers in England are three times more likely not to be in education, employment or training than other young people.
In 2017, of 26,340 care leavers aged 19-21, 40% were NEET compared to 13% of the general population. It is likely that this is related to higher rates of homelessness, mental health problems and offending among care leavers.
Understanding the underlying reasons for becoming NEET and identifying which care leavers may be at higher risk should help policy makers and practitioners to improve and better target services, the researchers said.
Josh Hillman, Director of Education at the Nuffield Foundation said: “This new Nuffield-funded project has the potential to extend our knowledge of young people leaving care, and particularly how their transitions into further study and the labour market can be better supported. This project will also make an important contribution to the Foundation’s portfolio of work on children and young people in care, including our work on educational outcomes and on disrupting the sadly all too common routes between care and custody.”