Care leavers said support to help them prepare for independence was lacking. Image: Malcolm Case-Green
The After Care report found that 61 per cent of care leavers felt their lives were better than they would have been if they hadn't been taken into care although 26 per cent said their lives were worse.
"It is a mixed picture as you would expect, but the balance is in favour of those who said care made their lives better," said children’s rights director Roger Morgan. "In many ways the care leavers we spoke to were positive about their experience of care but negative about their experience of leaving care."
When asked about their experience of moving out of care, almost half (49 per cent) said the help they got to prepare for independence was bad while 46 per cent said they left care too early.
One young person quoted in the report noted that "it’s not normal for kids to shop, pay bills and live alone at 18".
Many of the young people reported feeling lonely, some having been barred from visiting their former homes. The report also found that many care leavers were going without the support they were entitled to by law.
One question, for example, asked care leavers if their local authority provided them with a personal adviser as required by law. While 42 per cent said they had one, 29 per cent did not and a further 21 per cent said they did not know what a personal adviser was.
"Such inconsistencies are extremely common and it’s been that way for some time now," said Morgan. "I fear that as resources get more limited it could get worse. It is incumbent upon all of us that the young people and their social workers know what they are entitled to."
Sue Kent, professional officer for the British Association of Social Workers, said care leavers were getting a "raw deal". "The average age most people with families leave home is 24 years old, yet these young people are getting booted out of the system at 16," she said.
"Money takes priority over morality when decisions are made about these children. They should be helped to become independent, just like other children."