Leaving care: outcomes for fostered young people

Join the discussion in the fourth Rees Centre public seminar – even if you can’t be there.

Wednesday 20 March 2013
5.00-6.30pm at 15 Norham Gardens, Oxford (Seminar Room A)

Professor Mike Stein is Research Professor at the Social Policy Research Unit, University of York. His presentation will explore young people’s transitions from care to adulthood. It will begin by setting transitions from care in a normative context, highlighting differences between care leavers and young people moving on from their families. The presentation will then focus upon young people’s main pathways to adulthood – accommodation, careers, and health and well-being – drawing out the policy and practice issues arising from research findings.

Professor Sonia Jackson OBE is Emeritus Professor of Social Studies and Education at the Institute of Education, University of London. Sonia’s presentation argues that the care system is failing young people in three interrelated areas: stability in placement, educational progress and transition to adulthood.  A comparative study (YiPPEE) of England and four other European countries highlights the weaknesses, and some strengths, in our own system. It shows that in all countries children in state care suffer delay and disruption in their education for which the care system fails to compensate, and which puts them at high risk of social exclusion in adulthood. This needs an unremitting focus on education (in its broadest sense) from the first day that a child comes into care right through to adulthood. Leaving care services should take a longer view and prioritise educational engagement over self-sufficiency.

Mark Rogers, Chief Executive of Solihull Council and Chair of the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives (SOLACE), will respond with a policy perspective.


How to participate
Post your questions here for our speakers. We will use as many of your questions as possible and feed back responses from the session through this blog post.

The Rees Centre welcomes your comments on this blog post. We reserve the right to moderate any comments. Please note that any replies to your comments will come from the Rees Centre rather than the author of the post.


Back to blog

7 responses to “Leaving care: outcomes for fostered young people”

  1. Hi,

    Drive Forward Foundation is a charity which works with care leavers, helping them move into education, training or employment.

    There is definitely a huge problem with low educational attainment – as has been well documented. Without excellent grades (and sometimes a university degree) it can be extremely hard for a young person to gain the experience they need to move into a career of their choice. Care leavers have an additional barrier in that they don’t have the family/support networks to help them get their foot in the door.

    Our question is: will there be anything put in place for young people once they have left care to help them in the world of work, beyond simply a drive to improve educational attainment whilst they are in care? (1)

    Also, we find that even young people with university degrees struggle because they have not had the support in choosing the right course, building up experience whilst studying and developing the right skills to search and apply for jobs. The Job Centre are not specialist careers advisors and we feel that there needs to be some provision in place for the above. Do you agree?

    A further question: stability is a huge issue. When (if ever) can we expect the care system to enable social workers (and to some extent foster carers) to work with a young person for the long-term, providing them with the longevity and continuity of support they need in order to thrive? This could go some way towards addressing the issues mentioned in our first question. (2)

    One further point we’d like to make is that we’re increasingly coming across unaccompanied minors who have been in care. We have one young person who has been waiting for 9 years for his right of abode and another who has recently received it after waiting for 6 years. They have both been prevented from getting a job as a result. Should the government, as their corporate parent, ensure that young people have their status in place when they leave care? (3)

    • nikkiluke says:

      Here is a response from Mike Stein – numbered to answer points made above:

      (1) Personal Advisers have a responsibility to support care leavers up to the age of 25. This will include their employment pathway. There is evidence that they can be assisted by providing additional specialist careers support. An important employment initiative is the National Care Advisory Service (NCAS) Care2Work project. This began in 2009 with the aims of improving the employment opportunities for care leavers, raising their aspirations and closing the gap between young people leaving care and their peers in the general population. Through working in partnership with local authorities and national and local employers it is succeeding in increasing employment opportunities. Between 2009-11 150 local authorities had signed up to the project and in total, 400 local and national companies were engaged offering 4,609 employability opportunities, including 1,096 work experience placements and 356 apprenticeships (NCAS 2011).

      Local authority provision has included: basic skills training (e.g. support for Literacy, numeracy and ICT); pre-apprenticeship programmes (e.g. through work and college placements); pre-employment training (e.g. young people supported on business programmes; work experience (e.g. with council departments, help with application forms); apprenticeships (e.g. in Business Administration, Customer Services; Health and Social Care; employment (e.g. young people being kept on as employees, after work placements); post-16 further and higher education (e.g. academic mentoring, support with applications process, equipment, attendance at summer schools, visits to Universities to raise aspirations). Between April and September 2011, 29 local authorities provided 3,300 opportunities between them (NCAS 2011). See http://www.leavincare.org for details. The project has also introduced the Care2Work quality mark standards, developed resources to assist practitioners and raised the awareness of the need to support young people in accessing and maintaining employment.

      (2) Providing all young people with stable high quality placements is a major challenge facing the care system, especially in the context of a shortage of foster carers. A better understanding of the reasons for placement breakdowns and addressing these would be a starting point. This includes assessment and recruitment policies, providing more support to foster carers when difficulties arise in placements and more skilled help to young people, especially those who have mental health problems. There is also evidence that some young people can settle very well in small well managed children’s homes with positive cultures.

      (3) You make a good point. It would be very helpful to the lives and careers of unaccompanied minors if their asylum status could be resolved as soon as possible. At present many personal advisers are having to deal with the uncertainty of supporting and planning for young people for several years while the resolution process is taking place.

  2. nikkiluke says:

    Carole Hill asks:

    Sometimes it feels like we throw money and resources at education, but don’t teach them how to aspire to achieve to get what they want in life. Giving a child a computer or a tutor will only be a tool if the child wants to learn. Do we not need to look at how we motivate a child to want to learn?

    • nikkiluke says:

      Response from Mike Stein:

      I think it is important that developing motivation is part of the way children and young people in care are assisted. This should begin when young people enter care and continue through their educational career.

  3. nikkiluke says:

    Davina Warren asks:

    Concerning supporting young people through their education and university, I feel very strongly that carers and young folk should be able to have the financial help that is required to see them through this phase of their life.

    • nikkiluke says:

      Mike Stein responds:

      Local authorities have a duty to provide financial support for young people in higher education. It is very important that young people are involved in the development of what this should constitute at a local authority level, beyond the statutory minimum – including personal support, types of financial assistance and other resources (e.g. computer equipment, books, access to travel and leisure facilities) which may assist them. This process happens in some areas through Children in Care Councils.

  4. nikkiluke says:

    Thanks to you all for these excellent comments and questions. We had a very lively session with lots of questions from the audience as well as on here. We’ll update this post very soon with the speakers’ responses.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *