Leaving Care process
By the age of 16 a looked after child will have been assigned a leaving care Social Worker responsible for the Pathway Planning process, preparing the young person for moving on from foster care to independent living between the ages of 16 and 18. Young people often have false expectations of living independently excited by the heady possibility of freedom; the reality of maintaining a home and paying bills on a regular basis doesn’t become obvious to them until it’s too late and they have no support networks around to offer the advice, guidance and support that we all found so vital when we first branched out on our own.
Paul Goggins MP called the need to extend the foster care leaving age to 21 a ‘moral imperative’ saying that children in care who have already experienced destructive life experiences are at risk of developing ‘chaotic lifestyles’ if forced into independence without support too soon in their adult lives.
The ‘Don’t Move Me’ Campaign
Following a high profile campaign by the Fostering Network supported by some leading political figures, the Government has agreed to impose a duty upon Local Councils to support fostered children to remain with their foster family up to the age of 21, if they choose to.
The Fostering Network are still putting pressure on the Scottish and Welsh governments to follow suit.
£40 million has been set aside to allow Local Authorities to put these arrangements in place over the next 3 years.
A previous scheme piloted in 2008 had clearly shown the long term benefits for foster children of remaining in a stable placement past the age of 18. Those children remaining with their foster family were twice as likely to be in education at the age of 19 compared to those forced to move on to independent living between the ages of 16-18.
Natasha Finlayson, chief executive of the Who Cares? Trust, which supports children in care, said:
“This represents the most significant reform to the support children in care are given in a generation.”
“Time and again we hear from young people who are extremely anxious about having to leave their carers when they turn 18 and effectively no longer having somewhere they can call home, especially when the average age for young people who aren’t in care to finally leave home is (at least) 24.”