A new campaign aimed at giving all fostered young people in England the opportunity to remain with their foster carers beyond the age of 18 has been launched today by charity the Fostering Network, with support from MPs from all mainstream political parties.
Don't Move Me aims to persuade the Government to change the law and provide funding to ensure that all young people in foster care can stay with their foster families when they turn 18 if both parties are in agreement. In support of the campaign, 38 MPs have recorded video messages highlighting their own experiences of leaving home and addressing the issue of inadequate support for care leavers.
Currently, local authority care usually ceases on a young person's 18th birthday, and what happens to them next is a postcode lottery. Some local authorities help them to stay with foster carers, others rely on their foster carer offering them a home for free, and many more have to move out to live by themselves.
When this happens, the levels of support vary hugely. This can mean that someone studying for their A-levels may be forced into independent living midway through their exam year, at a time when most young people rely on the support and help of their family to enable them to study and do well.
The average age for most young people to leave home across the UK is 24. Traditionally care leavers don’t do as well in education as those who haven’t been through the care system and are more likely to be unemployed. Being able to stay with foster carers beyond the age of 18 will help to in some ways level these inequalities.
As the Children and Families Bill makes its way through Parliament, the Fostering Network has been working with Paul Goggins MP to table an amendment which would allow all fostered young people in England the chance to remain with their foster carers until the age of 21, if both parties were in agreement.
Paul Goggins MP said: "Whilst the average age for leaving home is 24, only one in 20 young people in foster care stay with their carers beyond their 18 birthday. Many young people leaving foster care end up homeless and in a crisis that could be avoided.
"We all have an obligation towards young people in care and allowing foster children to stay with their carers until they are 21 would be a practical way of smoothing the path towards adult life for some of the most vulnerable people in our society".
Vicki Swain, campaigns manager at the Fostering Network, said: "None of us would see our own children moved out into a flat when they turned 18, often in the middle of their A-levels, or worse in a hostel with nowhere to call home.
“The amendment to the Children and Families Bill put forward by Paul Goggins MP will allow for more young people in care to have the stability and support so many of us take for granted as they enter adulthood, which will not only benefit them but also society as a whole.
“While we welcome the Government’s current interest in care leavers, we believe that without legislation too few fostered young people will get a realistic chance to stay with their foster carers beyond the age of 18. This is a rare opportunity to change the law, and we need as many as MPs as possible to back the amendment to make sure that the next generation of care leavers gets a better start to adult life.
"All young people, especially in this economic climate, should have a place they can call home. Branching out into the world is a gradual journey and no one should be forced into independence before they are ready."
You can view the video messages from MPs by visiting dontmoveme.org.uk and find out more about the campaign and how you can get involved in helping to change the lives for some of our country's most vulnerable young people.
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