Keith Clements, Policy Officer at NCB considers ‘what work’s’ in
supporting care leavers.
For all young people, getting on in
life is not just about gaining knowledge and having opportunities, but also
about the developing the skills, confidence and resilience they need to make
successful transition to adulthood.
An increased national focus on mental
health and wellbeing, particularly in education policy, which is visible in the
election commitments made by the new government is a welcome reflection of this
While the support that schools and
colleges offer to develop life skills and confidence will often vary, most
young people can at least, rely on a strong family network to fill in the gaps
and help them to work through the personal challenges they face.
The typical experience of a young
person in care will be very different.
The fallout from their pre-care
experience, and often frequent placement moves within care will make the
development of strong, supportive relationships a challenge for many.
The ability of schools and other
formal services to track and contribute to the development of life skills and
confidence will be hindered by these factors. And, of course, the age at which
these young people are expected to become independent is much lower than that
of their peers, with most leaving care at age 18, and others earlier, and the
support the state provides them as care leavers dropping away completely in
their early twenties.
This is why programmes such as ‘From
Care to Independence’ (FC2I) are so important.
FC2I is a programme of support delivered through The Prince’s Trust
Fairbridge Programme and partner agencies, which aims to support care leavers
to develop personal and social skills that could help them to stabilise their
circumstances and make positive steps forward.
Research has revealed that half (55%) of the care leavers who received a
package of group activities and one-to-one sessions successfully moved into employment,
education, training or volunteering, emphasising the role that continued support
for care leavers can have on their lives.
An overwhelming majority of care leavers found the model of support
offered by the project useful, with 98% saying the one-to-one sessions with
advisors had helped them achieve their goals.
It is heartening that, in spite of their
troubled start in life, few of the young people working with FC2I have let this
stop them setting aspirations for their future. It is clear that, of all young
people, care leavers are better placed to achieve their goals with the right
The findings also, however, give us a
timely reminder of some of the challenges care leavers face and the need to
continue to improve how their day to day needs are met, including
accommodation, emotional and practical support and access to mental health
There are encouraging opportunities
for these issues to be addressed, such as proposals for the reform of child and
adolescent mental health services, and the ongoing work to explore how all care
leavers are able to benefit from ‘staying put’.
The research into the effectiveness
of FC2I, like much of the sectors’ work supporting care leavers, demonstrates
the vital role the voluntary sector plays in improving outcomes, through
service delivery, innovation, evaluation, finding solutions, and challenging
the status quo.
From Care to independence: Interim Findings
May 2015 is available from www.princes-trust.org.uk/about_the_trust/what_we_do/from_care_to_independence.aspx