Recent announcements in England have seen requirements imposed on local authorities to provide fostering services until the age of 21. In Scotland, the government has gone further and plans to raise the care leaving age to 21 so that children in residential and other care arrangements will also benefit.
The Welsh Government has introduced an amendment to the Social Services and Wellbeing (Wales) Bill, currently before the Senedd. This will allow local authorities to provide services until 21, but will not be a requirement.
TACT and other charities will continue to campaign on this issue. If the Welsh Government does not agree to introduce a requirement on local authorities, we will seek to persuade authorities to make suitable provision. Whatever the initial outcome, TACT will continue to campaign, until children across the UK are entitled to stay with their carers until at least 21. We know that this gives them the best platform to go on to become successful adults.
The text of the letter signed by TACT and 11 other charities is below.
“Dear Deputy Minister for Social Services
We believe you share our conviction that more fostered young people across Wales should be able to remain with their foster carer beyond the age of 17.
The average age for leaving home in the UK is 24, but many young people in Wales are forced to move out of foster homes before they are 18.
Care leavers are among the most vulnerable in our society. They are less likely to do well educationally and are more likely to have a mental illness, be homeless, misuse substances, be unemployed, or spend time in prison than those who haven’t been in care.
By giving young people the chance to stay with foster carers, we can change this. Evidence shows that the longer a young person can stay with a foster family, the more successful they are later on. The one-to-one support and guidance offered by foster carers is crucial in helping these young people in their transition to adulthood and independence.
Experience shows that we cannot rely on the voluntary, guidance-led approach to solve this problem. The Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Bill provides a clear opportunity to make sure children in care receive the time and support they need to succeed.
We welcome that the Government has committed to address this issue by tabling an amendment to the Bill, but it is crucial that any change in the law places an obligation on local authorities to allow fostered young people to stay beyond 18. Merely giving local authorities a power to provide these arrangements will not drive real change for young people, and we urge you to introduce a strong legal duty supported by adequate financial resources.
Providing young people with the opportunity to stay with their foster carers represents real value for money. The Chance To Stay – Cyfle i Aros report estimates the additional cost at £1.1 million per year, with this low short-term investment providing long-term benefits for the Welsh economy, and for the young people and the foster families that care for them.
We urge you to use this Bill to change the law to ensure that care leavers get a fair start to adult life.”