Wales watchdog urges more help for teens leaving care

Vulnerable young people need more support when leaving care, according to the Children’s Commissioner for Wales.

Keith Towler’s Lost After Care report gives “a flavour of what it is like to leave care”, highlighting a lack of information for those involved.

Mr Towler said many young people were “required to leave care before they were ready”.

He is to launch a practical guide to help the young leaving care at the Senedd on Wednesday.

He said the transition to independent living was “scary and lonely” for many looked-after children.

The MyPlanner checklist informs young people what support they are entitled to when leaving care.

Copies have been sent to all local authorities in Wales and will be given to every young person in care on their 15th birthday.

Mixed experiences

Every year, around 6,000 looked-after children in Wales leave the care system – most of them aged 18, but some are younger.

After researching the experiences of 120 young people who were in foster or residential care or who had left care, Mr Towler said: “It is evident that the young people we spoke to have had very mixed experiences of being involved with social services.”

Marking the 10th year of his office, Mr Towler’s report underlines the importance of young people establishing a good relationship with their social workers.

It adds that social workers “should not feel swamped under the pressure of target-hitting, paperwork and administration tasks”, which prevent them from spending “quality time with the young people”.

The report ends with a series of suggested service improvements for the Welsh Government, local authorities and for the inspectorates.

“The Welsh Government should standardise the value of leaving care grants so that every young person moving on to independent living in Wales receives the same amount,” said Mr Towler.

He added that local authorities should make sure that all young people leaving care received relevant financial education and were supported in their transition to adulthood by grants.

In a message to social workers, Mr Towler said: “What is clear is that with dedicated support from foster carers, professionals and corporate parents many of these young people can and will prosper. But currently too many are falling at the first hurdle.”

Young people’s experiences of leaving care

We received a call from a very distressed young person who was due to have an 18th birthday halfway through their A-level exams.

This young person had been told by social services that he would have to move into bed and breakfast accommodation prior to the completion of his exams the day after his 18th birthday.

We had been advised that the foster carers were happy for this young person to remain with them past their 18th birthday and for them to receive a supported lodgings allowance in place of a foster carer allowance.

The young person’s social worker had been adamant that the young person had to leave their foster placement.

We made representations on behalf of this young person to managers within social services who eventually agreed to allow him to remain in the foster placement whilst the foster carer received supported lodgings allowance, allowing him to successfully complete his exams and continue onto college.

Children’s Commissioner for Wales Keith Towler