Why have so many of our homeless been in care?

There about 60,000 children in care in the UK at any given time with most placed with foster parents or in children's homes. Some will have been placed in care on a temporary basis to relieve problems within the home, or to give the children a break. Others will be there on a permanent basis, which in real terms, means until they are 16 or 17. Most will be in care due to abuse or neglect (62%), family dysfunction (10%), absent parents (8%), and socially unacceptable behaviour (3%).

A childhood of abuse followed by an adolescence spent in care sets up young people for all the disadvantages that define social exclusion: illiteracy, homelessness, drug and alcohol dependency, prostitution and criminality.

There is an average of 6,000 children leaving care each year, with many of them having been placed with more than 30 different foster families during the time in care.

There have been many independent reports carried out of the UK care system and it is generally accepted that:

  • Three quarters (4,500) of those leaving care this year will have no qualifications at all.
  • Half (3,000) will still be unemployed two years after leaving care.
  • A third (2,100) will be either mothers or pregnant.
  • A fifth (1,200) will be homeless.

These reports seems to accept that the government is making available sufficient resources to assist these young people, but there appears to be a consensus that the use of these resources needs a serious review. Too many of our children leaving care are unprepared to enter the wider world.

"A successful system of care would transform this country, empty a third of our prisons and shift half of all prisoners under the age of 25 out of the criminal justice system. "It would halve the number of prostitutes and homeless, and remove 80% of Big Issue sellers from our street corners."

We are aware at Whitechapel, that more than 30% of the homeless we see each day, have a history of being in care.


Care system 'fails young people'

Most young people in local authority care are destined to end up in prison, homeless or working as prostitutes, a report by a think tank claims.

Of the 6,000 who leave care each year, 4,500 will have no qualifications and a fifth will be homeless, says the study by the Centre for Policy Studies.

Report author Harriet Sergeant said the system was failing young people and society and perpetuating an underclass.

The government admitted that more needs to be done despite recent improvements.

In 2005, 60,900 children were in care with most placed with foster parents or in children's homes.

Abusive childhood

The report - entitled Handle with Care: an investigation into the care system - showed most were in care due to abuse or neglect (62%), family dysfunction (10%), absent parents (8%), and socially unacceptable behaviour (3%).

It also found:

  • within two years of leaving care 3,000 of 6,000 young people will be unemployed
  • 2,100 will be mothers or pregnant
  • 1,200 will be homeless
  • nearly half of all young people leave care at 16 or 17

Ms Sergeant said a childhood of abuse followed by an adolescence spent in care sets up young people for all the disadvantages that define social exclusion: illiteracy, homelessness, drug and alcohol dependency, prostitution and criminality.

"A successful system of care would transform this country, empty a third of our prisons and shift half of all prisoners under the age of 25 out of the criminal justice system."

"It would halve the number of prostitutes and homeless, and remove 80% of Big Issue sellers from our street corners."

The report said the problem is not the amount of money - the government spends £40,000 on each child - but the way it is spent.

It added that children were being moved "far too frequently" between carers, care homes focused on short-term containment rather than long-term success, and there was not enough support for charges once they had left the system.

It called for "secure, stable, long-term and loving care for difficult children".

Among the children quoted in the study was one 14-year-old girl who had been through 30 placements.

"You feel like a bit of rubbish yourself who no-one wants," she is quoted as saying.

Minister for Children Beverley Hughes said in some cases the system was compounding the young person's experiences.

She said a lack of accountability and a fragmented system were to blame.

"There is no single person doing what a good parent does for their own children, that is driving the system, making it work, making sure the health checks are done, making sure the schools are delivering," she said.

The Department for Education and Skills said it was working on a consultation document on a range of proposals to transform the outcomes of children in care.

The department said it would look at "how we can close the gap in the life chances and academic performance of looked after children and improve their prospects significantly".

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Looked after children in 2015

There were 69,540 looked after children on 31 March 2015, compared to 68,800 in 2014.

Of these:

  • The majority of looked after children (61%) are looked after by the state due to abuse or neglect
  • The majority of children (73%) are from a White British background
  • 52,050 (75%) were in a foster placement
  • 5% of the children looked after were under the age of 1

Adoptions from Care

There were 5,330 looked after children adopted during the year ending 31 March 2015, an increase of 5% between 2014 and 2015.

Gender

53% (2,800) of children adopted during the year ending 31st March 2015 were boys and 47% (2,530) were girls.

Age

  • 4% (230) of children adopted during the year ending 31st March 2015 were under 1 year old
  • 76% (4,050) were aged between 1 and 4 years old
  • 19% (990) were aged between 5 and 9 years old
  • 1% (60) were aged between 10 and 15 years old
  • None were aged 16 and over (to nearest 10)

Ethnicity

  • 83% (4,400) of looked after children adopted during the year ending 31st March 2015 were white
  • 11% (580) were of mixed racial background
  • 2% (120) were Black or Black British
  • 2% (90) were Asian or Asian British
  • 1% (50) were from other ethnic groups
  • 2% (100) were other (refused or information not yet available)

Siblings adopted

1,930 (36%) of the 5,330 children adopted during 2014-15 were part of a sibling group.

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