Learning prospects boosted for young adults in care

4 December 2013

NIACE believes that young people in care will be better equipped to make the most of learning opportunities following the announcement from the Department for Education that local authorities will now have a legal duty to financially support young care leavers in foster care until the age of 21 (previously 18) and that the government will fund them to do so.

Young people in foster care who are going through the transition from child to young adult and are making decisions about their future and which educational pathway to follow, need a stable environment and support at home to be able to make those decisions. A secure and supportive foster placement until the age of 21 can provide that stability during difficult decision-making times.

Care leavers featured in NIACE’s recent publication – Voices of Care Leavers – have spoken out about the positive impact a stable environment has had on their lives.

Leticia said:

“I have had the same foster family since I was brought into care which helped me a lot because I had a stable place to study and, if I was stuck, I knew I could ask for help.”

Lisa said:

“If I had not been taken into foster care I would not be where I am today. The loving and stable home I have been in for over a decade now has helped me achieve most things I am today.”

Through its extensive work with care leavers, NIACE has come across great disparity in the finance given to young care leavers for things such as setting up home independently, buying equipment for college or finding affordable accommodation during summer breaks from higher education. Today’s announcement means it is likely that there will be more consistency across local authorities in the funding made available for foster carers to provide continued stability and support for young adults finding their way in life.

Carol Taylor, NIACE Director of Development and Research, said:

“NIACE has fought for many years, with our partner organisations, to get society to recognise the specific needs of young care leavers, and the duty of care that local authorities had. Until very recently young people who had been in care could, and often were, asked to leave their foster care at the age of 16, often overnight. Can you imagine turning your child out onto the streets at that age? Young people need parental support to decide on their career choices, complete their education and make decisions about colleges, work, Apprenticeships and higher education. They also need support with housing and finances, and just for growing up. NIACE welcomes this move to amend the Leaving Care age to 21, and the move to fund local authorities to be able to fulfil their duty of care to young people who are amongst our most disadvantaged.”