Central government must listen more to care leavers

In a review of support and services offered to care leavers, the National Audit Office (NAO) urges the government to “do more to listen to care leavers and hear their suggestions for improving services”. Praising the work of the Office of Children’s Commissioner and local authorities like Derbyshire County Council, the NAO says not enough is known nationally of the experiences of young people leaving care. Data is not collected on the proportion of care leavers that are homeless, have mental health problems or commit suicide, for example. Only 8 of 151 local authorities were able to provide information to central government about where their care leavers were living and whether they were in education or work. Some councils told government their care leavers were in suitable accommodation, even when they were homeless or imprisoned.

The NAO also points to disparities between resources invested by local authorities in leaving care support, ranging from just £300 to £20,000 per young person. The average was £6,250. However, questions are raised about the consistency of the data provided by local councils and the NAO concludes, “there is no clear correlation between local authorities’ spending on care leavers and the quantity and quality of their services”.

A third of care leavers in 2013/14 were children (aged under 18), yet in 2013 half of 22 year-olds still lived with their parents.

Read the report here.