Leo and Shelby share challenges of leaving care with MPs

Published on
07 December 2023

Leo and Shelby share challenges of leaving care with MPs

Two young people from Plymouth have met with MPs in Westminster as part of a campaign by Barnardo’s to improve life for those leaving care.

Leo and Shelby (centre) meet MPs at Westminster

Shelby Walker and Leo Dann, who are both care experienced, are supporting the charity’s campaign aimed at reducing homelessness among young care leavers.

Barnardo’s says that one in three young people become homeless in the first two years of leaving care and the current crisis in the private rental market is making things worse.

Private landlords are increasingly likely to demand a rent guarantor in addition to a deposit and first month’s rent up front, but care leavers are often unable to call on family to act as a guarantor. This leaves them facing significant problems finding safe, secure accommodation.

Barnardo’s is calling on the government to make it a requirement that all English local authorities follow the example of Kent by setting up a guarantor system for care leavers aged between 18 and 24.

The charity has already had discussions with Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Mel Stride, and have the backing of Labour MP for Plymouth Sutton and Devonport, Luke Pollard, who organised today’s round table event with fellow Labour MPs and Steve McCabe, Chair of the All-Parliamentary Group for Looked After Children.

Luke Pollard said: “I’m so proud of Leo and Shelby for making their case in Parliament. For two years, I’ve campaigned with Barnardo's and young people in Plymouth to secure a better deal for care leavers and our roundtable today is another step forward.

“We won’t stop until the government gives care leavers the support they deserve, including a rent guarantor scheme to help them find a decent first home.”

Leo, 21, had to turn down a couple of jobs because he couldn’t secure accommodation within reasonable travelling distance. “I was already to move in but then the letting agency started blanking me. The place I had been due to rent was still being listed on their website and although I had the money for the deposit, I couldn’t provide a guarantor.”

The apprentice youth worker eventually found a landlord who had worked with care leavers before and was willing to rent him a place without a guarantor, but Leo felt uncomfortable having to disclose his background to complete strangers to secure a tenancy.

“There’s a stigma around being a care leaver and 90% of the care experienced people I know have had problems finding somewhere safe to live. That impacts on every other part of your life.

“It’s an incredibly serious situation. There is a lack of properties to rent in Plymouth and costs are rising. I’ve had letting agents tell me a guarantor is mandatory so they can’t help me. I just hope things will change and care leavers will get the support they need.”

Shelby, 26, said: “Most young people have financial support from parents but the amount of help care leavers receive depends on where they live in the country. They should have equal opportunities to access appropriate housing in safe areas so they can have a positive outlook on life.”

Shelby and Leo have been supported by Plymouth Care Journeys, a service run by Barnardo’s, which helps care leavers take their first steps to independence. The charity’s Chief Executive Lynn Perry said: “Around 10,000 young people leave care each year and must start living independently when they are just 18 or even younger. It can be an extremely stressful and lonely time for those without financial and emotional support from family to call on.

“The young people we work with tell us that finding and keeping a safe, comfortable home is very difficult and many find themselves forced to accept poor quality accommodation or face being on the streets.

“The average age for young adults leaving home in the UK is 23 and most do so with a lot of family support to fall back on. Care leavers are expected to have the skills, knowledge and means to live independently when they are just 18. It is not surprising they often have poorer outcomes in adult life and that 25% of homeless people have been in care.”

"These policies would save the taxpayer money in the long run and give care leavers the best possible chance of making their own way in the world with a home of their own." 

Barnardo’s estimates it will take £30m to set up the scheme and £6.4m per year to run. Centrepoint estimates that the cost of youth homelessness in the UK is £6.5bn.

The Independent Review of Children’s Social Care published last May recommended that all local authorities should have a guarantor scheme in place.

 Editors Notes:

  • When they leave care young people can be offered a range of different accommodation options, including staying with their foster carer, or moving into semi-independent or supported accommodation but around 36% of care leavers aged 19 to 21 are living in their own independent accommodation. 
  • Research suggests that 13% of care leavers had been unable to access private rented accommodation because the landlord was unwilling to accommodate them, primarily because competition enables landlords to pick and choose tenants, often favouring young professionals.  
  • Care leavers can face particularly difficulties in accessing properties without a rent guarantor. Care leavers from Plymouth identify many challenges in renting without a guarantor including limited choice in properties, lower quality housing stock, having to rent in an area far away from work or education), and a risk that landlords exploit care leavers without a guarantor e.g., by increasing monthly rental payments to compensate. 

For further information please contact Margaret O’Reilly, Barnardo’s regional communications team on 07827 977830 or email [email protected].

Last year more than 382,000 children, young people, parents and carers were supported by Barnardo’s through nearly 800 services and partnerships across the UK, such as young carers, care leavers, foster carers and adoptive parents, training and skills or parenting classes.     

We work to transform the lives of the UK’s most vulnerable children and every year we help thousands of families to build a better future.    

Visit www.barnardos.org.uk to find out more.   

Call the 24 hour press office number on 020 8498 7555.   

Registered charity No. 216250 and SC037605.  

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