Tiffany, 24, is a project worker at our Triangles programme where she supports young people who have grown up in care to build a support network and create positive change for themselves and other young people with experience of the care system. As a care-experienced young person herself, she told us how the cost-of-living crisis has made life even harder for young people leaving care.
How have you seen the cost-of-living crisis impacting the young people you support?
“There’s just not enough money and support for care-experienced young people who are trying to live independently, especially because bills keep going up,” Tiffany said. “I went to uni during the pandemic, but I couldn’t finish my third year because I couldn’t work full time and manage my in-person uni work once classes resumed on campus. I was left to choose between having a job and being homeless. In the end, I had to give up uni just to be able to keep my home, feed myself, and survive – I know that’s not an uncommon experience for care-experienced young people.”
“When I've spoken to other care-experienced people who have gone to food banks, they’ve said they often feel like they don't deserve it as much as other families who are struggling to feed themselves even though many of them are in the same dire situation.
“Travel is another cost that’s becoming unaffordable, with young people having to choose between getting to work and having food or getting to work and having enough money for the electric metre. I live in Manchester and luckily the public bus network here means prices are affordable, but there’s a postcode lottery when it comes to the public services and entitlements that care-experienced young people can access. Isolation then becomes a massive issue because you just can't afford to leave your house to see your friends or family,” she explained.
care-experienced young people (19%) say they are lonely always or often, Coram Voice (2018)¹
"That’s adding a lot more pressure on care-experienced people especially because they don't have that safety net to catch them if they miss rent for a month or two. If you get kicked out, where are you going to go?
of homeless people have been in care at some point in their lives, National Audit Office (2015)²
“When you're starting to focus only on being able to pay your bills and your rent to survive, basic necessities like healthy food become either unaffordable or forgotten about and that takes a serious toll on young people’s mental health,” Tiffany said.
of care-experienced young people said they were struggling to afford food all or some of the time in a survey conducted by the National Leaving Care Benchmarking Forum (December 2022)³
How do you support care-experienced young people to deal with some of these issues?
Through Barnardo’s Triangles programme, care-experienced young people have the opportunity to access support to help them achieve a Personal Development Goal relating to anything from personal wellbeing to skills training, Tiffany explained.
“We’ve paid for driving lessons for young people which can be a massive help because driving lessons are so expensive. When I took part in Triangles myself when I was younger, I got driving lessons as part of my personal development goal and they really helped me because I wanted to be able to see my family and have more independence. We also help young people to get washing machines, phones, and groceries – anything we can do to try to ease some of the financial pressure from the cost-of-living crisis that everyone's feeling now.”
What needs to change?
“There needs to be more funding made available to support care-experienced young people,” Tiffany said, “including access to emergency financial support from the council if you get into financial difficulty – whether that’s to get a week’s shopping or help with an unexpected bill.”
She also called for the Government to step in more to help care-experienced young people to rent a decent place to live. “While some local authorities act as a rent guarantor for care-experienced young people, many others don’t, so again it’s a postcode lottery when it comes to who’s able to get support and it shouldn’t be that way.”
Local authorities offer young people who leave care a Setting Up Home allowance (also known as a Leaving Care Grant) of up to £3,000 that’s intended to support them to buy the basic necessities needed to move into their first flat. However, the level of money made available through this grant is not routinely increased nor is it increased in line with inflation which means young people are being left to manage with less support during the cost-of-living crisis.
Even when care-experienced young people are able to be housed, Tiffany described how these spaces are commonly unsuitable to live in. “When I first moved into my flat about five years ago, it had all concrete floors with a few bits of sticky vinyl left behind, so I had to spend £400 from my £2,000 grant just on carpet. Now, that would be like £600 or £700 so that's a massive chunk of your grant that's gone just towards flooring. You have to also buy other essential items like a washing machine, a bed, and a fridge – you don’t get to really choose the kinds of things you want either because you need to stay within that tight budget.
“Parents lend their son or daughter money for their food shop or whatever it is they need. The Government is supposed to be responsible for us as our corporate parent, so care-experienced people need that kind of support too.”
1) Coram Voice (2018) ‘Our lives beyond care’ available online at CV-OLBC-Snapshot-A2-Poster.indd (coramvoice.org.uk)
2) National Audit Office (2015) ‘Care leavers transition to adulthood’ available online at Care leavers’ transition to adulthood (nao.org.uk)
3) National Leaving Care Benchmarking Forum (2022) ‘Survival is not easy” available online at Survival-Is-Not-Easy-Full-Report-NLCBF-December-2022-2.pdf (leavingcare.org)