Up to 44% of care leavers reporting low wellbeing with ‘stark variation’ between local authorities

Up to 44% of young people who have left care have poor wellbeing, a survey has found.

Care leavers are more likely to struggle financially, have low life satisfaction and be more lonely than people of the same age who have not been in care, the children’s charity Coram Voice found.

Its survey of 1,804 care leavers, in collaboration with the Rees Centre at the University of Oxford, found “stark variation” in wellbeing across England.

Between 14 and 44% of young people had low wellbeing, with levels varying according to what local authority they had received care in.

And half of young people in one local authority felt unsafe in their home, while just a fifth in another area of the country said this was the case.

One care leaver said: “There needs to be a national service that offers all the same services to everyone.

“It doesn’t make sense for one care leaver to be exceptionally comfortable and another to be destitute.”

Care leavers with low wellbeing had few supportive people in their lives and fewer had a person who listened to them, praised them, or believed they would be a success.

Those from an ethnic minority background or those with small support networks more frequently reported that they lacked a supportive person in their lives.

The survey also found that more than a quarter (26%) of care leavers aged 16-24 reported low life satisfaction – almost nine times the proportion of the general population (3%) as found by the Office for National Statistics.

One in five care leavers (20%) said they were struggling financially – more than twice the percentage of young people who have not been in care (9%).

Care leavers also reported significantly higher levels of loneliness (22%), high anxiety (33%) and feeling unsafe where they live (16%).

The survey took place before the coronavirus pandemic, which Coram said will have exacerbated many of the issues faced by care leavers.

The report said: “Many care leavers do worse than young people in the general population. Yet local authority variation shows that this is not inevitable.

“Where care leavers felt that their care status had benefited them, this was associated with very high wellbeing.”

High wellbeing in care leavers was found to be associated with feeling less lonely and stressed, happier with how they look, feeling settled, feeling positive about the future and experiencing positive feelings and emotions.

Having people in their lives providing emotional support and feeling safe where they live were also important factors.

Brigid Robinson, managing director of Coram Voice, said: “Our aspirations for young people leaving care should be the same as for our own children; that they thrive and grow to become confident young adults able to find their way in the world.

“To achieve this, we need to understand what is important to them; what they love doing, their hopes and feelings and what could make things better.”

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