The information shows that 90 people who left care in the UK between 2012 and 2016, died in those years when they would have reached 19, 20 or 21: care leavers comprise one percent of the population at these ages, but account for around 7 percent of the deaths.
This news has drawn a swift response from the leading charity, The Fostering Network: its chief executive, Kevin Williams stated –
“These figures are a stark reminder of the challenges that many young people leaving care face, and that, as a society, we owe it to them to do all we can to make the transition to independent adulthood as smooth and successful as possible. Given that young people are increasingly remaining at home for longer, post-19 care schemes such as Staying Put, Continuing Care and When I Am Ready are vital.” And continuing –
“These schemes allow young people to stay living with their foster carers until the age of 21 or beyond, meaning the transition to adulthood can be more gradual and better supported. The stability, security, love and support that staying with foster carers offers means that young people can focus on building adult relationships and taking the steps they need to be able to fulfil their potential in adulthood.”
Kevin Williams then made the point that such schemes are not being adequately funded and implemented in a consistent way at a local level. The consequence is, that too few of our young people are actually able to stay in their foster homes. The charity, in evaluating ‘Staying Put’, has highlighted in the past the fact that Local authorities have freedom to decide how spending is to be allocated: it is known that local authorities face tremendous financial pressures in other areas and, consequently, just because funding is allocated by government centrally, it does not always result in the schemes being funded.
There is another pernicious element at work: because of the frequency of foster placement breakdowns -particularly amongst vulnerable teenagers – the kind of stability is not in place for them to be able to always access mental health support services offered by CAMHS (Children & adolescent mental health services). This is a lamentable state of affairs, and almost certainly plays a part in putting young people at greater risk.
Foster an end to “Austerity’: sensible planning should be implemented in the light of information available
It is not uncommon for money to be thrown at a problem by the government in a haphazard fashion – especially when placed under pressure from the media. Funding these schemes can only yield a positive result – as well as make sense of all the work and investment that has gone into supporting foster children up to the age of 18. What should be demanded now, is that funding ‘Staying Put’ has to be done consistently – with the financial support allocated to those it is intended to help. Only by doing this, can the risks to young people that lead to such appalling and tragic waste, be lessened:
“…the moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; those who are in the shadows of life; the sick, the needy and the handicapped.” The last speech of Hubert H. Humphrey (38th Vice President of the United States under President Lyndon B. Johnson from 1965 to 1969).
There is plenty of evidence available to government that caution needs to be exercised. Any new policy should take into account information such as the BBC reported about 4 years ago: new guidance for psychologists acknowledged that adolescence now effectively continues up until the age of 25 for the purposes of treating young people. Views were expressed at that time by the child psychologist, Laverne Antrobus, (working at London’s Tavistock Clinic):
“The idea that suddenly at 18 you’re an adult just doesn’t quite ring true,” and “My experience of young people is that they still need quite a considerable amount of support and help beyond that age.”
Consequently, Child psychologists were given a new directive to follow: namely that the age range they work with should increase from 0-18 to 0-25. And new guidance was instituted to ensure that when young people reach the age of 18, they should not fall through gaps in the health and education system. These recommended changes follow developments in new insights and understanding around emotional maturity, hormonal development – and especially brain activity.
So the government is, and was, clearly, in a position to have had information available that made it clear that at eighteen, young people are not mature adults. Something that all foster parents know.
Politicians of all stripes have a tendency to dwell in a cloud of rhetoric: the current political climate is certainly a spur to this tendency. As seen in the recent words of our prime minister delivered during her recent trip to the US.
“The United Kingdom is by instinct and history a great, global nation that recognises its responsibilities to the world,” The PM said.
Given what has come to light as a result of this Freedom of Information request, recognition of our responsibilities closer to home should be paramount. It was never better put than in these few well chosen words:
“A nation’s greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members.” Mahatma Ghandi.
And the good news at the end of this rainbow…one of our young people has received an award from the Mayor of Ealing for progress with their education.
Follow up our ‘Rainbow Rewards’ bonus scheme
Rainbow will be only too pleased to pay you a bonus of £500 if you are a foster carer able to refer someone to be a foster carer. This will be paid after your referral has been approved and the first placement has been made. Please note: if you are already an approved foster carer, and already care for a child (children) on a long-term basis, you can easily transfer to Rainbow Fostering. You also will be eligible for a bonus. It is a straightforward process – Rainbow provides all the necessary support and guidance. Please call for details to discover the benefits of joining our friendly and welcoming community of foster carers.
If you are a foster carer(s): keep up to date with the issues that count