My wife and I are registered foster carers and are in favour of the amendment to the Children and Families Bill that would allow young people in foster care to remain with their carers until the age of 21, if both the young person and the carers were in favour of such an arrangement.
One young man we fostered stayed with us beyond his 18th birthday, and was able to move on to independence in his own time, judging the point at which he was sufficiently mature to enter into a house-sharing arrangement. He was able to manage his money, hold down a job, and has recently married and is doing a great job carrying for his own children.
I feel our care for him beyond 18 was part of the solution for him finding his feet in the adult world, and making a success of his life.
I contrast this with another teenager we cared for who left on her 18th birthday, desperate to achieve independence. Ten years later she is still struggling with the poor decisions she then made, having cost the state a small fortune in health and social care costs, and having done irreparable damage to her health.
I believe that for all children leaving care, the ability to stay with the family they have grown up with is a reasonable right that each should be offered. Independent research has demonstrated that the longer a young person can stay with a foster family, the more successful they are later on.
This change to the law is not only justified on equity grounds - all of these children, by definition, have been dealt a very poor hand as youngsters, and the typical young person now leaves home at the age of 24 - it is also likely to be cost-effective for the taxpayer.