What’s the issue?
In 2017, 90% of 18-year-olds and 52% of 21-year-olds still lived at home (Office for National Statistics). Most young people only move out when they feel ready, having had the chance to practice key life skills and with support from their family.
For children in care, the situation is very different. Although the Staying Put programme helps some young people stay with their foster carers for longer, most will leave care on their eighteenth birthday, if not before. This means they need to be ready to manage on their own financially, often on a very tight budget.
Unfortunately, we know that far too often care leavers haven’t had the right support to feel confident managing money, which can lead to them struggling to pay bills and support themselves, leaving them vulnerable to falling into debt or even homelessness. Delays in benefit payment or unreasonable sanctions can lead to young people lacking essentials, such as gas and electricity or food. We get calls regularly to our Care Advice Line from care leavers who need to apply for hardship grants because they can’t make ends meet.
The APPG on Financial Education for Young People is conducting an inquiry into children in care and care leavers’ access to financial education. It’s unfortunately very easy for children in care to miss out on financial education. Placement moves, changes in school and other instability can make it difficult for children in care to learn about finance at home or at school.
We sent in a written response to the inquiry that talked about how local authorities, foster carers, residential workers and social workers can all play a part in making sure that children are well versed in financial education before they leave care and start living independently.
I then went into Parliament to answer questions from the committee. It was really encouraging to talk to a group of MPs who care about this issue. They all understood how hard living independently at a young age could be, and completely agreed that young people leaving care need more support. There will be a full report later this year, after the committee speak to several other groups including care leavers.
Getting the right support
Care leavers should have someone they know they can turn to if they need help applying for benefits, making financial decisions, or paying bills. Learning how to manage money is about much more than having a class, although schools and colleges can provide vital support. We learn how money works through practical examples and by having the right information at support at key life transitions, like moving into your own flat or starting university.
Part of being a good parent, corporate or otherwise, is making sure the children in your care are fully equipped to succeed when they leave home, and we all have our part to play in making sure that happens.