The Fostering Network welcomes the publication of The National Audit Office report: Care Leavers' Transition to Adulthood, and its scrutiny by the Commons Public Accounts Committee, as it reinforces the need for adequate investment in our social services throughout England.
Care leavers remain among the most vulnerable and at risk young people entering independence. They’ve often experienced, and lived through, neglect, abuse, and abandonment, and need support in to adulthood, which is why The Fostering Network campaigned for the introduction of staying put for young people leaving foster care which allows young people to stay with their foster carers beyond their 18th birthday if they, and their foster carer, wish them to stay.
We applaud the Government, with cross party support from MPs, for pushing through this legislation which came into effect in May 2014, but we are disappointed that this has been inconsistently introduced at local authority level across England – leaving young people who are approaching 18 uncertain of their rights and future status. There are also numbers of young people for who staying put is not an available, or right, option and these young people must be provided with equal and appropriate support.
As the numbers of children entering the care system increases, we cannot keep slashing the budgets aimed at enabling them to have positive futures. An investment in these young people now is one that will pay plentiful dividends for the rest of their lives.
While the report findings show huge failings, they also show that with the best of intentions, local authorities are often left with little choice but to turn their backs on care leavers because their hands have been so securely tied.
We believe that the Government’s investment of £100 million in innovation will go a long way to supporting some areas make a difference, but we’d like to see an end to cutting budgets and for the government to stabilise, and indeed increase the budgets for local authority teams who work to support care leavers. By supporting our social workers and foster carers, we can continue to make a positive difference to the lives of care leavers.
You can read the full report on the National Audit Office website.