1 Still Our Children Case for reforming the leaving care system in England Briefi ng for House of Commons Report Stage of the Children and Families Bill May 2013 the voice of foster care
2 For further information on the issues raised in this briefing contact: Vicki Swain the Fostering Network (General enquiries and Staying Put Amendment) Campaigns Manager t m e Oliver Chantler Barnardos (Personal Adviser Amendment) Policy and Public Affairs Offi cer t e Jack Smith The Who Cares Trust (Virtual School Head Amendment) Policy and Research Advisor t (direct) e Still Our Children has been supported by the following organisations:
3 Introduction 1 A number of voluntary and community sector organisations deeply concerned with the current state of leaving care provision in England have formed a coalition. We welcome the positive changes introduced in the Children and Young Persons Act 2008 and revised statutory guidance on planning transition to adulthood, but believe that there is a strong case that the whole system of leaving care requires urgent reform. 2 The briefi ng is ordered as follows: Section one sets out the case for reform; Section two details a number of amendments to the Children and Families Bill that would serve to improve outcomes for looked after children; and Section three sets out a broader vision for reforming leaving care beyond the Bill including actions for central government, local authorities and charities. 3 These amendments and vision are informed by our experience of working with looked after children and care leavers. We hope this briefi ng will allow Parliamentarians the opportunity to debate these issues at the Commons Report Stage of the Children and Families Bill. 4 When the state decides to intervene in the life of a child it starts a unique long term relationship between the child and the state as corporate parent. 5 Young people in care will have experienced diffi cult and often traumatic childhoods and many of them will have been abused or neglected. Yet at the age of 18 years, or earlier, this relationship abruptly ends for many care leavers who often fi nd themselves having to embark on landmark stages in their lives, their fi rst home or job, at a far earlier age than many of their peers and without the support network and safety net of a family. 6 Corporate parenting is not just about looked after children up to 18 but also about supporting young people to become independent and productive members of society. No reasonable parent would leave their child to fend for themselves at 18, nor should the state. 7 It is well evidenced that the fi rst few years after leaving care are extremely problematic for many young people and that care leavers are disproportionately disadvantaged, including experiencing homelessness, poor education and employment outcomes, mental health problems, early parenting and contact with the criminal justice system. 8 Therefore we believe the obligations that fl ow from the state s unique relationship as corporate parent should be based on support according to need rather than age.
4 Section 1: Case for reforming the leaving care system 9 We are disappointed that the Children and Families Bill does not address any of these issues for care leavers and see this as a missed opportunity. 10 Young people leaving care are among the most vulnerable children in our society. Even those who have had a stable placement may have very high levels of need. Many children who have been in the care system have had a childhood full of instability and trauma, with over 62 per cent i of looked after children being taken into care due to abuse or neglect. 11 During ,000 children aged 16 years and over ceased to be looked after, an increase of 18 per cent since 2008 ii. More than half of these young people (63 per cent) were aged 18 years and over at the time of leaving care, but the remaining 37 per cent were only 16 or 17 years old iii. This contrasts with the average age of leaving home for the general population increasing a recent ONS report highlighted one in three men and one in six women aged 20 to 34 still lived with their parents. Many young people are leaving care too early. 12 In addition preparation is often poor, and planning inadequate. Many young people lack the life skills and support they need. Young people s transitions from care to adulthood are often accelerated and compressed and for many leaving care can be instant adulthood iv. These transitions are particularly complex for young people with asylum or immigration issues, those with disabilities or mental health issues and those who have been detained in the youth justice system. It is hardly surprising that the outcomes for care leavers are signifi cantly poorer than those of other groups of young people: About 23 per cent of the adult prison population have spent some time in care v ; Around a quarter of those living on the street have a background in care vi; vii ; Care leavers are four or fi ve times more likely to commit suicide in adulthood viii ; A quarter of care leavers were pregnant or young parents within a year of leaving care ix ; In 2011 just 12.8 per cent of children who had been in care for a minimum of one year obtained fi ve good grade GCSEs, including English and Maths. For other children the fi gure was 57.9 per cent; The number of 19-year-olds who were looked after when aged 16 years and who are now NEET is 36 per cent, double the number of their non-care contemporaries; 11 per cent of care leavers in England live in unsuitable accommodation upon leaving care x ; Between per cent of looked after children aged 5-17 years show signs of psychosocial adversity and psychiatric disorders, which is higher than the most disadvantaged children living in private households. Physical and mental problems increase at the time of leaving care xi. 13 The diagram in Appendix 1 summarises the entitlements for care leavers at different ages. The diagram illustrates how the support available to young people falls away as they get older both after the ages of 18 and 21 (and it is only those who are in education and training after the age of 21 who receive additional support). Young people at 21 who are not in education or training are not entitled to any support from leaving care services, despite the fact that this group are the most vulnerable young people.
5 14 However, despite a decade of leaving care legislation young people continue to fall through the gaps in provision and do not receive adequate support from their corporate parents to make the transition to adulthood. In a survey of over 1,000 young people: 21 per cent said that they needed to stay in care for longer 27 per cent said they didn t receive enough help when leaving care 32 per cent reported fi nding it diffi cult or not possible to contact their worker 32 per cent said they don t have support they need from their council xii. 15 Demos in their 2010 report In Loco Parentis, written with Barnardo s, identify four factors that can signifi cantly improve a young person s experience of leaving care and give young people a chance of better adult outcomes: the age at which young people leave care; the speed of their transition; their access to preparation before leaving care and support after leaving care; and maintaining stability and secure attachments after leaving care. 16 The level of support young people need varies according to their experience, resilience and existing support networks. However, the current system determines how much support a young person will receive based on their age and education or employment status. Parents do not stop parenting their children when they reach the age of 18 or 21 or even 25. The values and ideals that should lie at the heart of any parental relationship should also lie in the relationship between the Government and local authorities as corporate parents and the care leavers they work to protect. 17 It is clear that if life outcomes for care leavers were comparable to those of the rest of the population there would be signifi cant savings both for national and local Government. Case study: Jerome Jerome is now 24. He is a very vulnerable young man with mental health diffi culties, a chaotic lifestyle including drug abuse, and no qualifi cations. He is also HIV positive. Jerome entered care when he was 12. He has had over 25 different placements in care and as a care leaver. During his time in care he was very vulnerable young person with mental health diffi culties, out of education, involvement in the youth justice system, and drug misuse. Leaving care regulations meant that when he turned 18 he needed to leave his placement. He was having problems fi nding a suitable home, and was eventually placed alone in a self-contained fl at which he could not manage. He remained highly vulnerable and had no qualifi cations and was unable to access education or training or get a job. This meant that when he turned 21, despite his considerable needs, the local authority closed his case. They had no further duty towards him as he was not in education or training. Despite his illness, he had started an access course and had asked the local authority for support as he wanted to complete this course and enter higher education. This had been refused. Jerome needed intensive on-going support and understanding in order for him to make the transition to adult life, his circumstances meant that this support needed to continue beyond the age of 21. However, the current system meant that the local authority was under no duty to provide this support.
6 There is evidence that successful leaving care services and additional specialist services help to improve outcomes for young people leaving care. Inspections and reviews have also found that authorities that have invested in specialist schemes tend to offer more comprehensive, effective and age appropriate services xiii. 18 The leaving care experience has a strong impact on a young person s ability to manage independent living. There is a direct correlation between the age a young person leaves care and their educational attainment. Successful educational outcomes for care leavers are linked to placement stability and being looked after longer xiv. The Government have recognised the importance of education with the creation of a statutory post to oversee the education of looked-after children but this does not extend beyond 18 (See Virtual School Headteacher Amendment in Appendix 4). Leaving care early is also associated with higher levels of unemployment with the view that the younger a person leaves care, the more challenges there are for them navigating the transition to independence and the more diffi cult it is for them to negotiate the youth labour market xv. Appendix 2 details the cost comparisons between a well planned and supported care journey and a poorly planned, under resourced care journey. 19 The Government has already gone some way towards affi rming this commitment to young people. In the Charter for Care Leavers launched 6 months ago, the Government publicly pledged to care leavers that local authorities must: Continue to care for you even when we are no longer caring for you. We will make it our responsibility to understand your needs. Work together with the services you need, including housing (and) benefi ts to help you establish yourself as an independent individual. Empower you to be the driver of your life and not the passenger. We will point you in a positive direction and journey alongside you at your pace. 20 So far in its fi rst six months, the vast majority of local authorities have not signed up to the charter. Moreover, as a voluntary framework it does not constitute enforceable obligations or necessarily provide a remedy to care leavers who do not receive their entitlements. The Charter is a helpful statement of aspiration for how leaving care services should be provided. Local authorities who have signed up to the Charter should be supported by Government to demonstrate how it is leading to change at a local level. 21 Care leavers come into contact with a range of services, yet beyond children s services they are often not prioritised for support. Catch22 NCAS, Care Leavers Foundation, ANV and the Prince s Trust s report, Access All Areas, calls for central government departments to care-proof all Government policies by assessing the impact they will have on looked after children and care leavers, with a specifi c focus on young people aged xvi. Ministers and government departments have been supportive of the principles of Access All Areas, but this collaborative approach must continue in order to produce more tangible evidence of the changes that they have made as a result. 22 Across the United Kingdom there is increasing recognition of the need to provide additional support to care leavers up until age 25: In Scotland proposed legislation will require local authorities to assess the request for support up until the age of 25 and are required to provide such advice, guidance and assistance necessary if it cannot be met through other means. A new corporate parenting duty for all public bodies is also proposed for looked after children and formerly looked after young people under the age of 26.
7 The Welsh Government is implementing a new scheme called When I m Ready in a number of pioneer local authorities. This scheme allows young people to stay in foster care beyond their 18th birthday. In England, the Department for Education funded the Staying Put pilot which began in 11 local authorities in July 2008 and ended in March The pilot was targeted at young people who had established familial relationships with their foster carers and offered this group the opportunity to remain with their carers until they reach the age of 21.
8 Section 2: Care leaver amendments to the Children and Families Bill 23 The issues facing care leavers require a wide-ranging solution with sustained effort by central and local Government. We recognise that there is more work to be done to achieve this change. However, steps can be taken now to extend support to care leavers. Members of this coalition have put forward three proposals for amendments to the Children and Families Bill which will allow parliamentarians to show their support for the principle of extending support for care leavers. Full details of the amendments are provided in Appendix 4. Staying Put Amendment 24 The new clause would amend the Children Act 1989 to allow children in foster care to remain with their foster carers until at least 21 years old. Virtual School Headteacher Amendment 25 The Bill currently calls for a new statutory role of virtual school head teacher to champion the educational attainment of looked-after children in each local authority. We want to see this extended to cover care leavers up to the age of 25. Provision of further assistance up to 25 Amendment 26 The role of the personal adviser is pivotal to the success of the additional arrangements developed to improve the outcomes for young people leaving care. The personal adviser will help to construct the pathway plan, he or she will provide continuity of support for the young person through transition, and will also assist in identifying the resources and services required to meet the young person s needs. We want access to personal advisers and pathways plans to be extended to all care leavers until the age of 25 and not just to those who are in education or training. It is the young people who are not in education, employment or training who may actually be more in need of the support of a personal adviser.
9 Section 3: Beyond the Bill 27 The debate around the Bill would be an opportunity to raise some of the following issues with the Minister. 28 The Voluntary and Community Sector organisations involved in this campaign support the principle that young people who have experienced care should be able to access support from the state up until they are 25. Ultimately we want to see this embedded in legislation. In the long-term the savings which could accrue from minimising social problems need to be identifi ed and directed toward local authorities to enable them to meet the costs of a longer period of leaving care support. 29 The charities involved propose a single, fl exible model of leaving care support, set out in Appendix 3, to replace the current tiered system based on on-going needs. The underpinning principles of this model are: The obligations that fl ow from the state s unique relationship as corporate parent should be based on support according to need rather than age, or education or employment status. Young people should have the right to support at any point up to the age of 25 years. 30 However, we recognise that ensuring young people with care experience can continue to receive support up to the age of 25 if they want to, is neither a simple task nor one which can happen overnight. Overcoming the complexities of legislation, and securing the changes in culture and practice will all take time to achieve. So alongside our commitment to the goal of achieving the model and principles laid out above in Section 2, we are calling for a series of short- and medium-term tasks which will move us towards this goal. We are offering to support our partners across local and central Government in undertaking these tasks.
10 Section 4: Actions Central Government To publish an annual progress statement on Access All Areas the cross departmental commitment to care proof policies across Government and the Care Leavers Charter. Department for Education to establish an advisory group of care leavers, local authorities, other central Government Departments and leading Voluntary and Community Sector organisations to lead thinking on improving the leaving care system, including scoping the possibilities and pitfalls of raising the leaving care age and developing the model proposed in Appendix 2. The advisory group would set out a possible route map identifying the steps needed to raise the leaving care age covering the following areas: o Eligibility for support o Participation of young people in decision making o Opportunities for second chances o Impact on benefi ts o Access to health services o How to ensure young people receive their rights and entitlements, including the role of independent advocacy and local accountability structures o Cost of raising the leaving care age o Review effectiveness of pathway planning o Encourage local authorities to get the best outcomes in service delivery by taking full advantage of the opportunities, expertise and specialisation offered by partnership working with Voluntary and Community Sector organisations, and work to identify and resolve barriers to such partnership working. Local government Share best practice through Catch22 NCAS National Leaving Care Benchmarking Forum, a network of local authorities who aim to promote the development of quality leaving care services in member authorities through a process of benchmarking and shared learning. Work with the Fostering Network to establish how support for care leavers can be extended without the need for additional legislation, for example through greater use of Staying Put (including exploring how this may work for young people in children s homes). Sign up to Charter for Care Leavers and report annually to the relevant scrutiny committee and children in care council on the progress of implementation. ADCS to extend their What is Care for? Work to include care leavers up to the age of 25. Ofsted Implement an inspection framework which includes a separate judgement on outcomes for care leavers. Report to Department for Education on the outcomes of these inspections over the fi rst year.
11 Charities Undertake a detailed cost benefi t analysis of an extended support model for care leavers. The analysis will detail the savings which can made, and from which budgets, by shifting the focus from crisis intervention and ancillary costs such as health, housing or custodial provision to continued support and early intervention. Voluntary and community sector organisations that provide services to care leavers to evaluate those services and share learning about what works. Support central and local Government in the completion of the tasks identifi ed above.
12 Appendix 1: Categories of care leavers and entitlements Have you been in care for a total of 13 weeks or more since you were 14 (including some point at age 16 and 17? NO YES How old are you? 16 or Over 21 Are you still in care? NO YES Former relevant pursuing Education or training* Former relevant Relevant Qualifying The local authority: Must advise and befriend May give help with education & training costs Must give vacation accommodation Do you want to start, or have already gone back to, education or training? Eligible Personal adviser Needs assessment Pathway plan Assistance with education & training based on assessment Higher Education bursary No leaving care status Have you been in care on or after your 16 th birthday? NO YES Local authorities legal responsibilities under the Children Act 1989 are detailed in the Statutory Guidance and Regulations called Children Act 1989: Vol.3 Planning transitions to adulthood for care leavers. The diagram (right) shows the reducing support available to young people dependent on their age and education/employment status. * You can come back at any time up until the age of 25. Support should continue until the end of the agreed programme of education. Continue PA Continue Pathway Plan, incl. regular review Expenses associated with living near place of employment Expenses with education and training needs to continue until end of agreed programme of education Responsible local authority must keep in touch Higher Education bursary Vacation accommodation Continue PA Needs assessment Continue pathway plan, incl. regular review Provide suitable accommodation, maintenance and support Provide assistance to meet education, training & employment needs Keep in touch Give all the support that comes with being looked after. Personal adviser (PA) Needs assessment Pathway Plan to meet the needs identified in the assessment and prepare you to live independently Regular review of Pathway Plan ENTITTLEMENTS
13 Appendix 2: Cost comparison case studies of a poor care journey and a well planned care journey There have been few longitudinal studies that link the outcomes in later life of care leavers with their leaving care age and experiences. In the Demos/Barnardo s report In Loco Parentis, two children s case studies are documented in order to illustrate that poorly planned and under resourced care journeys actually prove to be more expensive in the longer term due to the resulting poor life outcomes for the young person and their associated costs. The good care journey (Child A) illustrates how a supported transition from care at 18 is associated with improved health outcomes and educational attainment. The poor care journey (Child B) illustrates how an unstable care journey with an early exit from care at age 16 leads to escalating social services costs and poor outcomes. The estimated total costs of Child A aged incorporating education costs and accommodation support are around 40,000. However, the estimated total costs of Child B aged including welfare benefi ts, mental health treatment costs and the costs of unemployment are nearly 112,000. This is a further 72,000 of expenditure on Child B. The case study further explores that there were both increased immediate costs to local authorities due to Child B s placement instability and poor leaving care transition, as well as the signifi cant long term costs that would in all likelihood continue past 30 as Child B would inevitably need ongoing support.
14 Appendix 3: Proposed model for leaving care We want to explore a new model of providing support and assistance for young people leaving care. Our suggested principles and core elements of a possible model are set out below. This could be based on three stages during the transition to adulthood: Looked after status up to the age of 18. Previously looked-after children from the ages of 18 to 25. Adults over the age of 25 who have previously been in care. This is a long-term vision which needs to be scoped, discussed with looked-after children and care leavers, local authorities, frontline services and practitioners. The additional costs and opportunities for savings for local authorities and other services also need to be identifi ed and quantifi ed. The Voluntary and Community Sector organisations involved propose the following single, fl exible model of leaving care support to replace the current tiered system based on-going needs and underpinning principles: Principles The obligations that fl ow from the state s unique relationship as corporate parent should be based on support according to need rather than age, or education or employment status. Young people should have the right to support at any point up to the age of 25 years, even if they have temporarily ceased to access support during that period. Model Care leaving age: The Children Act 1989 to be amended to extend the age at which young people continue to receive local authority support to 25 years, which would be more in line with the average age of leaving home for the general population. Involving young people: Young people have the right to be involved in decisions about their lives. Support offered through a new model of leaving care is optional and young people should be involved in determining whether they want to receive the support and what it looks like. They should also have the opportunity to change their minds. Ongoing care: Young people under 25 years who have moved into independent living arrangements, should be able to remain in and return into, for example, foster care or other supportive settings if they wish to do so. Transition planning: Local authorities should have a duty to continue to assess and meet the needs of all care leavers through pathway planning and review up to 25 and continue to prepare them for all aspects of living independently. Corporate parenting: Corporate parenting should refer to the collective responsibility of all relevant public bodies, not just children s services, to work together to meet the needs of looked after children and young people up to the age of 25. The emphasis should be on parenting and the relevant public bodies and agencies should act in a way a birth parent would.
15 Support in adulthood: Adults services should recognise the needs of adult care leavers, and where appropriate prioritise them for support. Well informed assessments: To ensure professionals involved in delivering key public services are trained and better informed on the issues facing young people in the care system so they are able to make better informed assessments and decisions on service priorities. Effective identifi cation of care leavers: Consent-based systems should be in place to ensure that care leavers are fl agged up for support and assistance and that the intelligence about the needs of care leavers are passed between departments and services to inform commissioning of services, pooling of budgets and joint working.
16 Appendix 4: Details of care leaver amendments to the Children and Families Bill a) Staying Put Amendment The following amendment amends the Children Act 1989 to allow young people in foster care to remain with their foster carers until at least age of 21. After section 23C(5) Children Act 1989 (continuing functions in respect of former relevant children) add new subsection 5AA: (5AA) (1) The assistance given under subsection 4(c) shall include the continuation of accommodation with the former local authority foster parent, unless: (a) the former relevant child states that he or she does not wish to continue residing in such accommodation, or (b) the former local authority foster parent does not wish to continue to provide accommodation, or (c) it is not reasonably practicable to arrange such accommodation. (2) Former local authority foster parent means a local authority foster parent within the meaning of section 22C(12) with whom the former relevant child, as a looked after child, was placed under section 22C(6)(a) or (b). b) Virtual School Headteacher Amendment The following amendments are proposed to: Extend the duty to promote the educational achievements of looked after children to cover relevant children (children between 16 and 17 who have left care) to secure equity with children remain in care up to the age of 18. Create a new role in monitoring and evaluating the local authority in delivering its responsibilities regarding education for former relevant children aged This mirrors the duty to promote the education of looked-after children for relevant children. In the Children Act 1989, in section 22 after subsection (3A) (duty of local authorities to promote the educational achievement of looked after children) insert: (3B) A local authority in England must appoint at least one person for the purpose of discharging the duty imposed by virtue of subsection (3A) and section 23B subsection (8A) and monitoring and evaluating the effectiveness of that local authority in discharging its duties under section 23C subsection (4b) and 23CA and advising them on ways to improve. (3C) A person appointed by a local authority under subsection (3B) must be an offi cer employed by that authority or another local authority in England In the Children Act 1989, in section 23B after subsection 8 insert: (8A) The duty of local authorities under subsection (8) to safeguard and promote the child s welfare, includes in particular a duty to promote the child s educational achievement.