Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Living At 'Home' Is Just Not An Option For Those Leaving Care

The BBC reported this week that there is a massive increase in the number of ‘twenty and thirty-something’s’ living at home with their parents. A sign, it is suggested, of the economic downturn. Being the BBC I am sure that they are right. These are difficult times to set off independently, with or without an income and a roof over your head. 

There have been radio phone ins, surveys and various commentators who appear mildly amused that such a large proportion of our ‘bright young things’ cannot afford to live independently in Britain 2014. It is, of course, very difficult for those perhaps Ed's own daughter who has spent three or four years in ‘under’ and then post graduate studies accruing considerable debt in the process. 

How fortunate then that the 3.5 million 20 -34 year olds (Labour Force Survey, Office for National Statistics) identified have parents and, or family homes to return to. How helpful that their degrees have at least increased their chances of being in employment as they weather this newly identified crisis in independence. This is a real concern and indicative of just how challenging life can be in Britain for relatively young people.

Imagine then the challenge for someone perhaps 10 years younger than the average member of the cohort studied by the ONS. Someone perhaps who is most unlikely to be heading towards university, or employment or an apprenticeship; a child who has no family on which to rely; an individual who has parents, but they are Corporate Parents, not quite identifiable because they sit in a council chamber and are generally inaccessible to ‘their’ children. 

What parents would consider it quite reasonable to tell their 16, 17 or at most 18 year old child that they must leave ‘home’ and never return because someone else will be sleeping in ‘their’ bed, ‘their’ room?  They cannot bring back their laundry at the end of term - there is no term for these children, except perhaps the long-term. 

They cannot visit at the weekend and enjoy a meal with their family – the family has changed. They may not borrow some money until the weekend to get them by, they are not the family’s responsibility any more. If they are cold and homeless and victims of exploitation then they should tell the police because their family is no longer their family. They are alone.

These are a large proportion of our society’s looked after children. Of course many fail – by reference to the usual measures, we seem to ensure that they do. Someone once said you can judge a society by the way it cares for its children and animals. Some might feel that one out of two isn’t bad. We don’t agree. Looked After Children should be supported until they are at least 21. Surely our looked after children deserve to be looked after at least ALMOST as well as those 3.5 million others? 

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