Last week, the government announced new funding to support care leavers. It stated that this £51 million ‘boost’ will aim to help vulnerable people in the care system, funding:
“A range of schemes to support those that are either in or leaving care, as well as proposals to introduce national standards that accommodation settings for 16- and 17-year-olds would have to meet.”
However, although welcome, this funding is not ‘new’. It is continued funding for existing programmes that Become is concerned need greater, long-term investment to deliver the change young care leavers need and deserve.
Staying Put, the arrangement where a young person in care remains in their foster home after the age of 18, is not fulfilling the promise it makes to young people and their carers. As Action For Children’s report makes clear, the costs of delivering Staying Put far exceed what is being provided and young people are often asked to pick up the slack.
And we're disappointed that Staying Close, the scheme where young people in residential care homes are able to ‘stay close’ to their former home, is progressing at a glacial pace. While we appreciate the pandemic has delayed a national rollout, we need to ensure young people leaving residential care aren’t forced out earlier than their peers in foster care.
Funding for targeted homelessness support for care leavers is welcome but is still an inadequate response to the scale of housing challenges faced by 10,000 care leavers each year. A recent study by Barnardos found the experience is often frightening, lonely and unsafe.
The government also wrote to local authorities to remind them about the importance of financial education for care leavers. We need to be clear: a lack of financial education is not the main reason why care leavers fall into rent arrears. Care leavers can't budget their way out of poverty.
Finally, the government announced this package of support while also consulting on proposals that will deny this support to thousands of future care leavers. Young people living in unregulated accommodation aren’t and won’t be eligible for Staying Put or Staying Close.
Every child in care should be guaranteed care up to the age of 18 but this new government legislation will leave thousands of 16-17-year-olds without it. We'll be responding to the unregulated accommodation consultation, imploring the government to #KeepCaringTo18.