Pilot scheme failed to stop young people leaving care before they were ready, research shows

A third of looked-after young people felt they had no choice about when to leave their placement, despite being part of a government scheme to promote staying on in care, a research report has revealed.

The evaluation of the Right2BCared4 pilots, by Loughborough University, found that young people continued to leave care before they were ready to do so.

Under Right2BCared4, young people were offered the option to return to care if they left before the age of 18 and encountered difficulties. But the study found that foster care shortages meant it was rarely possible for a young person to return to their previous placement.

While four-fifths of care leavers surveyed by researchers said they thought young people should be permitted to return to care if they wanted to, only one respondent had done so themselves.

A small number were unable to return because an appropriate placement could not be identified or because they had reached legal adulthood.

The research compared outcomes for care leavers in Right2BCared4 local authorities with their counterparts in non-pilot areas.

Researchers found the pilots did not improve young people’s prospects, with 63 per cent of care leavers from pilot authorities staying on in education compared to 77 per cent from non-pilot authorities.

Overall, the education, employment and training status of the Right2BCared4 cohort was similar to that of care leavers nationally.

Despite this, the majority of care leavers surveyed said it was their choice to leave care and a higher proportion of young people in pilot authorities were looked after until they reached legal adulthood, compared to those in non-pilot authorities.

More than half of Right2BCared4 young people who moved into semi-independent or independent living arrangements were positive about their transitions, although about a quarter said the process of transition had been rushed and abrupt.