Councils warned on children in care
Councils must do much more to tackle the "national scandal" that sees children in care more likely to end up suffering poor health and living a life of crime, the children's minister said.
Edward Timpson told local authorities to end the "cliff edge" that means many vulnerable young people are forced out of care suddenly at the age of 16, warning that many soon fall into a trap of poverty and joblessness.
He accused officials of treating teenagers as a tick-box exercise and failing to leave them with a proper safety net to fall back on if they struggle to cope on their own.
Mr Timpson urged councils to award teenagers a minimum £2,000 grant to cover the cost of setting up a new life outside care and warned that he would consider setting a national rate if they "did not make more progress".
He said: "It is still a national scandal that children in care are more likely to end up with worse exam results, to have poor mental and physical health, to be convicted criminals, and unemployed or out of education. These are the most vulnerable children in society who need the most support.
"We shouldn't underestimate the barriers facing children leaving care. There is good work going on where young people get the help they need to land on their feet - but it's not the norm across the country. Too often I hear from teenagers that planning to leave care ends up as a tick-box exercise, which ignores how they want to live their own lives."
Mr Timpson said that while many families were supporting their children for far longer as they faced high house prices and rents, a tight youth jobs market and the cost of further and higher education, "the state too often failed to act as any other parent would" for young people in care.
He said research out today showed 35% of children in residential care leave at 16 and 56% before they turn 18. Almost half of those leaving care at 16 are not in education, employment or training when they reach 19.
Mr Timpson added: "Local authorities need to do much more. There is something very wrong when some of the most vulnerable children feel they are being forced out of care the moment they turn 16. Society has changed. Most young people are no longer ushered out the door by their parents to make their own way in the world. Care leavers are no different."
Barnardo's chief executive Anne Marie Carrie said: "The lack of consistency of provision for care leavers across local authorities is a grave concern. The current support system is not clear or accessible for young people. Barnardo's looks forward to seeing an end to care leavers having to fight for what they are entitled to."