Local authorities need to “step up” the support they offer to looked-after children and care leavers, according to a report Finding Their Feet from the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ).
The CSJ also warns that not enough is being done by authorities to help support care leavers in dealing with the problems they face, namely around sexual health and parenting, mental illness, and accessing employment and training opportunities.
It found that:
- 505 of looked-after children did not have a care plan
- 71%per cent (rising to 95% for those in residential care) were separated from siblings
- the personal adviser system, which requires councils to appoint a lead professional to mentor the young person when they leave care is failing with ¼ of care leavers not in contact with their adviser by the age of 21 and the average case load of an adviser being 23.
Older siblings can provide a “quasi-parenting role” for younger brothers or sisters when they leave care, which is being lost as a result of separation. It says there should be a presumption for social workers to facilitate “meaningful” contact between siblings in care plans.
The report calls for:
- Authorities to develop their own versions of Staying Put arrangements for young people in residential care so that they can remain in semi-supported living until they reach 21. Staying Put currently allows fostered children only to stay in a placement until they reach 21 if they wish.
- The DfE to issue new statutory guidance to enable personal advisers to be appointed from outside the local authority, with emphasis placed on those who have an “established relationship” with the young person.
- Developing a career coaching service for all looked-after children
- Financial support for care leavers undertaking apprenticeships as well as those at university
- Co-ordinating health services for all care leavers through the Family Nurse Partnership programme.
The Care Leavers Foundation backed the findings of the report and called for the government to create a national development group to take forward the ideas.