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Greater ambitions for young people in care

16 July 2013

Guest post from Puja Darbari, Strategy Director at Barnardo’s

The Government is currently addressing the support it provides for vulnerable children in its Children and Families Bill. Although these young people are among the most vulnerable in our society and this is a prime opportunity to do the right thing by them, there is nothing in the Bill about children leaving care.

A recent Barnardo’s survey found that only five per cent of UK parents expected their children to leave home by 18, with more than a quarter expecting them to be in their mid-20s before flying the nest.  For those young people who have grown up in the care of the state, leaving their foster home is just as pivotal a moment and can feel very lonely.

Through no fault of their own, there are almost 80,000 children in the government’s care today. They will have experienced a great deal already in their young lives. Some of them will have been abused, some neglected, and even after they have turned 18 they are likely to need someone to turn to. That is why the Government should take this opportunity to make sure all children leaving care have someone to turn to until they are 25.

Barnardo’s estimates that providing this safety net to care leavers would cost around £1,280 a year for each young person leaving care. When you consider that even over seven years that’s less expensive than the tuition fees for a degree at many of the UK’s universities, it seems a negligible amount to make sure these young people start adult life on the right path. To completely ignore this suggests that policy makers have very low expectations of what young people emerging from care might achieve in life.

Current statistics show that around a quarter of both the adult prison population and those living on the street have spent time in care. So, making sure that these young people have someone to turn to before times get too tough is an investment which will ultimately make savings for us all in the future. It’s time to be every bit as ambitious for these young people as we would be for our own children and give them a greater chance to fulfill their dreams.