Why is this important?
Last week, the government announced that children who were in foster care would be allowed and supported to remain with their foster carers until they were 21 years of age. There was much celebration amongst campaigners when the announcement was made. However, those celebrations did not extend to children and young people in children’s homes. Children in residential care are not included in this change even though arguably the residential sector cares for possibly the most vulnerable and disadvantaged young people who may be unable, or indeed choose not to be fostered. One young 15 year old in residential care said: Just because foster children are settled in a family environment does not mean that young people in residential are not. I would love to live here until I am 21.' Children in children’s homes will still face being discharged from care at 18 (or even younger) and facing the savage disadvantages that life can bring. We know from the feedback we received that these young people were not celebrating last week. It is our view that increasing the care leaving age for fostered children and not those in other residential settings will have unintended consequences. It will:
• create a ‘two tier’ care system, in which children in foster care receive longer aftercare support than those residential settings; • create an ‘underclass’ of children in care who have to leave care at 18;
• reduce real choice for children as they will be compelled to accept family care in order to gain better aftercare;
• create serious issues for social workers when family placements are breaking down. Instead of considering a residential care option, they may repeat family placements in an effort to protect aftercare;
• have an impact on the self-image and confidence of children in residential settings other than foster care, who may feel undervalued and discriminated against by a change which excludes them through no fault of their own.
We welcome the change in leaving age for fostered children to 21 years of age. We congratulate the campaigners who achieved this and acknowledge work that took place over several years. However, we feel that to accept this change whilst excluding other children in care is discriminatory and not sufficient.
We ask that the government support all children and young people in care to 21 years of age. We ask all those who share our view to support our campaign for equality. It is the least we can do for our children.
BEN ASHCROFT @AshcroftBen
IAN DICKSON @IDickson258
ROSIE CANNING @RosieCanning1
ED NIXON @EdNixon2
LISA CHERRY @_LisaCherry
PAOLO HEWITT @PaoloHewitt1
ALEX WHEATLE MBE @brixtonbard
DR JOSIE PEARSE @angelstrand
DR GORDON MILSON