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Why we are campaigning for care leavers

Read more about what the issue is and why Barnardo's is campaigning to get better support for care leavers.

1. Who are children leaving care?

Young people leaving care or care leavers are defined as young people who are entitled for support as a care leaver if they have been looked after for at least 13 weeks since the age of 14, and were in care on their 16th birthday.

2. How many care leavers are affected?

There are around 10,000 care leavers in England. We know from our work with young people leaving the care system that the support available to them is not always satisfactory and is often inconsistent, with many care leavers not knowing what support is actually available.

In England 21% of children leaving care are as young as 16, 16% leave care at 17 and 62% at 18. This is compared to the average UK age for young people leaving home which is 25.

3. What is the impact to care leavers not getting support?

Young people in the care system often enter into ‘instant adulthood’ at 16. Like most 16 year olds, they do not tend to have the life skills to be able to cope independently; and often find adult life especially hard due to the traumatic childhoods they have endured.

Most people continue to receive love, advice and perhaps financial assistance from their parents into their adult lives, and the average age for a young person leaving home is 26.

We see young people leaving the care system are more likely to end up getting involved in crime and drug abuse, and very often struggle to achieve good qualifications.

4. Why is Barnardo’s speaking up care leavers?

The State has a responsibility to protect care leavers when they leave care, but too often they are failed. Our work in our 22 services across the UK tell us that preparing and planning for young people’s transition when leaving the care system is often poor.

Barnardo’s believes young people leaving care as some of the most vulnerable to being unseen and unheard and whose needs are often ignored.

5. What services do we have?

Barnardo’s runs 22 leaving care services across the UK. Our services aim to bridge the gap for young people leaving care and living in the adult world. Our services help young people to develop the life skills they need to look after themselves, and include encouraging them to look at employment, training or further education opportunities.

You can read more about care leavers in a report Still our children which has been produced jointly with The Care Leavers Association, Catch22, the Fostering Network, TACT, Voice and The Who Cares? Trust.