What is a care leaver?
A care leaver is an adult who has spent time living in the care system, away from their family. This could with a foster family, in a children’s home or supported housing service, or under another arrangement as agreed by their social worker.
Young people usually leave care when they are 18 years old. They are provided with accommodation but often have no support to manage their tenancy, keep track of their bills, and stay in education and employment. At such a young age, it can be a challenge to juggle all these tasks without a safety net if things go wrong.
'There is no second chance. If you mess up you lose your flat. That’s quite scary and it’s not like for other young people who can go home to their families if it all goes a bit wrong or it feels like it’s a bit too much.'
What support is available for care leavers?
According to the law, children’s services departments must offer help to all care leavers up to the age of 25, even if they are not in education. However, local authorities are only in touch with 88% of their care leavers, so some young people are not able to access the support they are entitled to.
Every care leaver is different, so there is no single service to suit all of their needs. This is why we offer different support and services for young people.
Statistically, care leavers achieve poorer outcomes than the general population:
- 62% of care leavers have some form of mental health issue compared to just 10% of their peers
- 41% of 19-year-old care leavers are not in education
- Only 6% of care leavers go to university
- 25% of people who are homeless have been in care at some point in their lives
- 22% of female care leavers become teenage parents
- More than 25% of the adult prison population have previously been in care
Staying Close is a way of supporting young people leaving residential care to aid their transition to independence. It was recommended by Sir Martin Narey’s review of residential care in 2016 as a way of improving outcomes for care leavers.
In 2017, we received funding from the Department for Education Innovation Programme to launch our own Staying Close pilot. Our project has been co-produced by children in care and care leavers so that it has been crafted by the real experts.
We believe the government, through the Department for Education and Ofsted, should provide clearer guidance on supporting young people to return to their former children’s home up to the age of 21. Our own experiences have shown us how this can be successful through positive risk management models in line with our safeguarding and social pedagogic values.
But we firmly believe there should be no age limit on supporting a young person to return to their former home – after all, children outside of the care system live at home into their twenties and thirties. So, as part of our organisational strategy we are supporting young people to return to St Christopher’s throughout their lives.
Staying Put enables young people to stay with their foster carers past their 18th birthday. This gives them more time to prepare leaving care by learning the key skills they will need for living independently.
St Christopher’s is supporting The Fostering Network’s campaign to improve the use of Staying Put. We are calling on the government to introduce structured support and fostering fees for carers with Staying Put placements so that more young people can stay with their foster families for longer.
The drop-in centre is there to support young people with any life skills they may need extra help with – from cooking lessons, to applying for jobs or college courses. The team can also offer specialist advice on housing and tenancies, including three homes specifically for care leavers on the island.
In 2019 we will be launching our Support Into Employment scheme on the Isle of Man, helping young people to gain valuable work experience.
This is part of our strategic aim for lifelong learning and thriving, which includes a commitment to having 5% of our workforce made up of work placements, apprentices and trainees by 2023.
Are you a young person in the care system? Read advice from our young people about different types of homes you can live in and where you can go for help.
Or watch the video below to hear our young people talk about how St Christopher’s supported them to move to independence.