Last chance to change law to stop Welsh fostered children having to leave at 17

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Media release

The Fostering Network is calling on Assembly Members to support a once-a-generation chance to change the law so that fostered young people in Wales can stay with their foster carers until the age of 21.

Currently most young people are forced to leave their foster homes at the age of 17. In contrast, the average age for leaving home across Wales is 24.

The issue of formally extending the right for young people in Wales to stay with their foster carers until the age of 21 is being discussed in the Senedd tomorrow (Tuesday 4 February). The Fostering Network believes that the current Government amendment to the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Bill does not go far enough, because it leaves it up to local authorities to determine whether a “post-18 living arrangement” is appropriate and does not include any guarantee of financial support.

To ensure that all fostered young people in Wales have the best start in life, local authorities need to have a duty to provide such arrangements and support them financially. The Fostering Network is urging AMs to support an amendment tabled by Lindsay Whittle AM that would make this a reality.

Freda Lewis, director of the Fostering Network Wales, said: “We welcome that the Deputy Minister recognises the importance of young people being able to stay with their foster carers beyond 17, and we share her desire that more care leavers are able to do so, for example through expanding the When I am Ready scheme across Wales.

“However we remain disappointed that the Government still does not intend to give young people the right to stay beyond 17, instead relying on a voluntary approach via local authority guidance. This approach has been proven to be ineffective and will not ensure that every young person in foster care in Wales is given the chance to stay.

“Assembly Members will get a chance to debate this issue tomorrow (Tues 4 Feb), and we urge them to support amendment 331 to the Bill, tabled by Lindsay Whittle AM, which will provide this duty and financial support to make it a reality.”

The Chance to Stay - Cyfle I Aros report, produced by Action for Children, shows that young people who stay in foster care achieve more qualifications (55 per cent) and are less likely to be involved in alcohol and substance misuse than those who leave by the age of 18.

The Fostering Network is working with Action for Children to campaign for fostered young people to be allowed to stay with their foster carers up to 21. You can find out more about the Chance to Stay campaign on our website. The campaign is also supported by 10 other leading charities in Wales, including Barnardo’s and the NSPCC.

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The Fostering Network is the UK’s leading charity for all those involved in fostering, and exists to make life better for fostered children and the families that look after them.