Lack of support in care is leading to children and young care leavers being deprived of their legal rights, according to a report by the All Party Parliamentary Group for Looked After Children and Care Leavers (APPG), Family Law Week reports.
The Entitlements Enquiry report was run by Who Cares? Trust, a national charity supporting children in care, on behalf of the APPG.
Their research unveiled that the majority of children and care leavers don’t think they have all the information about the support they should receive, from their local authority.
More than a third of children in care do not know if they have a care plan, a document which sets out important decisions about the child’s life such as where they are going to live, whether they are allowed to have contact with their family and any future plans.
Over half of children in care and care leavers aged 14 to 19 do not know about the £1,200 bursary which they are entitled to from 16 to 19 if they stay in education.
Also, a third of care leavers are not aware that their local authority has to help them with the costs of education or training. Fewer than half know their local authority has to help them with accommodation during the holidays if they go on to higher education.
The report also shows that fewer than half of care leavers know that they are entitled to help with the costs of getting and keeping a job, and only one third are receiving the £2,000 setting up home allowance. The government’s recommended amount to help with essential items when they leave care, such as fridges, cookers and furniture.
The charity questioned over 1,000 children in care, care leavers, and professionals about specific support that children in care and care leavers in England have a legal right to.
“Not enough children in care are being told about their legal entitlements, and the support they do receive is not consistent enough. At the same time, we found that professionals who work with looked after children often feel they don’t know everything they need to in order to support them fully,” the Chair of APPG, Craig Whittaker.
Natasha Finlayson, Chief Executive of The Who Cares? Trust added: “We have heard very troubling stories of young people giving up on their studies, even becoming homeless, because they were not aware of the support they should have received. This is absolutely unacceptable.”
The Entitlements Inquiry report sets out ten recommendations, developed with young people, to improve the way that children in care and care leavers can access support. These include asking local authorities to set realistic and manageable maximum caseloads for social workers and personal advisors. The summary of the report can be read here and the full report here.