Only around 7 per cent of care leavers go into higher education compared with 40 per cent of the general population. Care leavers are overrepresented in prison populations, and are more likely to be unemployed, single parents, mental health service users and homeless than those who grew up within their own families.
Yet "Staying Put" – a scheme that gives young people the option to stay until 21 – has been piloted in 11 English local authorities with great success. It showed that young people who stayed with foster carers were twice as likely to be in full time education at 19 compared with those that did not. In addition, studies have shown that allowing young people to remain in care until age 21 is associated with increased post-secondary educational attainment, delayed pregnancy, and higher earnings.
Jackie Sanders, head of media and campaigns at the Fostering Network, said: “Care leavers are currently being let down by a lack of legislation ensuring that they are supported until an age when they are ready to leave their home. Currently most young people are forced to leave their foster homes at the age of 17, whereas the average age for leaving home across England is 24.
“That’s why we are urging foster carers and young people to write to peers and share their voices and experiences with them. This change in the law could be the difference for many care leavers between a bright future as key members of society, or being condemned to a life of overreliance on the state and under contributing to society.”
The Fostering Network, alongside 39 other charities, organisations and academics, recently wrote to the House of Lords calling on them to ensure homes for care leavers.
The amendment will next be considered in the House of Lords at the bill’s report stage in mid-November. Find out which peers you can write to ahead of this stage on our website.
National Care Leavers’ Week, taking place from 24 to 30 October, is run by the Care Leavers Foundation.