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Care Leavers

Volume 571: debated on Wednesday 4 December 2013

Today I am announcing the Government’s intention to propose an amendment to the Children and Families Bill that will make a significant change to the legislation regarding care leavers. This amendment will be tabled for the House of Lords Third Reading of the Children and Families Bill.

The amendment will place a new legal duty on local authorities to support every care leaver who wants to stay with their former foster parents until their 21st birthday (“staying put” arrangements). This duty will come into force from April 2014 and we will be giving local authorities £40 million over the next three years to put the support arrangements in place.

A growing number of local authorities already offer young people the choice to stay but with little financial support it can be challenging for their foster families. Now all councils will have to follow their example.

This is a further reform to our much wider package of support for care leavers, including changes to the rules so 16 and 17-year-olds remain in care until they are ready to move out, and much greater financial support for young people leaving care at 18.

Children in care typically have much lower educational outcomes and are more likely to be out of education, work and training. Today’s announcement is the latest in a series of reforms the Government have made to improve both the stability and outcomes for young people leaving care.

We have:

launched the care leavers’ charter—a contract between local authorities and young people leaving care—which sets out the support they can expect right up to the age of 25, with over 120 local authorities now signed up;

introduced the junior independent savings account for all care leavers, with over 40,000 accounts now open with a £200 contribution from Government;

published the cross-Government care leavers’ strategy, which for the first time sets out in one place the steps the Government are taking—from housing to health services, from the justice system to educational institutions—to support care leavers to live independently once they have left their placement;

written to all local authorities asking them to dramatically improve financial support for care leavers, resulting in tripling in the number of councils now paying £2,000 or more through the setting up home allowance;

improved accountability by publishing an annual data pack, outlining statistics

on care leavers’ education and employment status, and from this autumn Ofsted’s local authority children’s service inspection framework will place extra emphasis on the outcomes of care leavers.

Supporting care leavers to stay with their former foster carers will allow them to leave stable and secure homes when they are ready and able to make the transition to independence. It will also help them enter adult life with the same opportunities and life prospects as their friends. I hope this significant change we are proposing for care leavers will have widespread support.