One in three care leavers left care “too early”, study reveals

One in three young people who have left care feel that they left “too early”, a major study has revealed.

The research, published by children’s social care regulator Ofsted, suggests that care leavers are not given enough say on their own future.

Under statutory guidance, local authorities are required to prepare children for leaving care by introducing them to a personal advisor (PA) from the age of 16.

But the latest research suggests that care leavers’ experiences are not always positive, with many leaving the safety of care unaware of the support they are entitled to.

For example, one in four care leavers did not meet with a PA until they were 18 or older, while one in five care leavers said they did not meet their PA until it was “too late” – leaving them alarmingly unequipped for independent adult life.

In addition, around half of care leavers said they were only informed about support available to them in the local area, while a similar proportion were told to “complain” about the lack of support they received.

A third of care leavers also told Ofsted that they felt isolated and did not know who to turn to for support after leaving care.

Commenting on the investigation, Yvette Stanley, Ofsted’s National Director for Social Care, said: “The transition out of care can be a daunting prospect for many. It’s so important that children feel prepared with the skills they need to live independently and a support network there to help them if they need it. Unfortunately, many of the young people we spoke to felt they left care before they were ready and didn’t know where to turn to for help.

“The insights these young people have shared with us strike a powerful chord and are valuable in identifying how things can be improved for care leavers. We will continue to draw on these findings in our future research and as we make improvements to our inspection work so that it always reflects what matters most to children in care and care leavers.”

The report, ‘Ready or not’: care leavers’ views of preparing to leave care, can be accessed here.

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