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Being A Care Leaver

A good parent should make sure that their child grows up able to fulfill their potential as adults – to become the best version of themselves.

We believe the same should be expected of the corporate parent. Yet as a society, we consistently expect our most vulnerable young people to be able to live without support at a much earlier age than their peers – at a time when their peers are relying on parental support for longer. Following difficult and disrupted childhoods, most with experience of trauma and abuse, many care leavers find themselves thrust into the adult world before they are ready.

 

Leaving care age

In England and Wales, the leaving care age is 18, although young people can leave care from the age of 16. At 18, however, a young person’s care order ends and the local authority is no longer their corporate parent. All statutory support from the local authority will end by 25, although for many, it ends sooner, at 21.

Many 16 or 17-year-olds actively choose to leave care, while they are still children in the eyes of the law - too young to smoke, drink or vote. Some feel they are ready, are excited at the prospect of not having adults around to tell them what to do, or are unhappy in their placement. But independent living may be much harder than they expected.

But many young people don’t feel ready to leave their foster carers or residential home at 16, 17 or 18. They are afraid of being lonely and having no one to turn to when things go wrong.

 

Preparing to leave care

Leaving care should be something young people and their carers are thinking about and preparing for long before a young person’s 18th birthday. Just as any good parent supports their children to prepare for independence, children and young people in care should be helped to develop practical domestic skills like cooking healthy meals, doing their own laundry and managing their money.

When the leaving care process formally starts, somewhere around the young person’s 16th birthday, young people are assigned a personal adviser who will support them up to the age of 21 if they are not in education or training, and 25 if they are. The young person and their social worker/personal adviser will begin working on their pathway plan.

The pathway plan should set out the individual package of support that the local authority will provide to help the young person achieve their goals. It might cover their education, training or employment ambitions, where they want to live, what financial help they require or what their mental health needs are. It should be updated every six months and it must reflect the care leaver’s wishes.

"I went into an event arranged by Become and suddenly I wasn't alone. It was like a light being swithced on in my life"
-Alisha, 19