While the average age for leaving home is 23, many care leavers find themselves living alone at 18 or even 16.
For vulnerable young people, having a safe and stable home is a crucial factor in their journey to independence. A base where they feel happy and secure is the starting point for success in other areas of life, such as employment and training.
Yet too often, young people leaving the care system face a cliff edge when they turn 18. Many leave full time education, lose access to specialist support for their mental health, and leave their foster family all at the same time, and are often expected to live in accommodation that is unsuitable and sometimes unsafe.
What have young people told us?
We held 23 in-depth interviews with care leavers across England to learn about their experiences when they left care.
They told us:
Moving into supported accommodation or their own independent flat was sometimes “scary” - and a number said they felt unsafe due crime and anti-social behaviour in the area:
Care leavers living in their own independent flats described problems with mould and damp – and a lack of access to support.
- The money provided in the leaving care grant was not enough to buy the things needed to live independently - and not enough to ‘make a house feel homely’:
What needs to happen next?
We must listen to care leavers’ experiences of learning care, and improve the system. There is a unique opportunity with the Independent review of children’s social care in England, which is preparing to make recommendations to the Government.
Based on the direct experiences of children and young people supported by Barnardo’s we are calling for the following changes:
Make it easier for young people to stay with their foster carers until the age of 21
Legislate for a national ‘Staying Close’ scheme for children leaving residential care
Provide robust quality standards for semi-independent accommodation
Reform housing benefit to make it easier for care leavers to access suitable properties
Provide care leavers with free bus travel to help tackle social isolation
Increase the “setting up home allowance” for young people leaving care to ensure there is enough to ‘make a house a home’
Improve understanding of support needs and outcomes for care leavers with babies
Reform homelessness legislation to provide better support for care leaver who end up with nowhere to live