Young people leaving care are some of the most vulnerable in society. Without support from parents, many of them are struggling to adapt to independent life. Some are even becoming homeless as a result of the challenges they’re facing.
Here are six of the many reasons why.
1. They experience financial difficulty
When you’re used to living independently, it’s easy to forget that dealing with money is a learned skill.
Care leavers have fallen behind with their rent, failed to pay utility bills and even been unable to meet their basic needs around food and hygiene – all because they haven’t been prepared to manage money and deal with payments.
43 per cent of care leavers felt the main professional supporting them had been unhelpful in helping them think about future housing needs.
2. They can’t afford the rent
Whatever their skills in managing money, it’s no use if they can’t afford their rent. Housing benefit is a lifeline, but the complex local housing allowance and entitlement rules leave many care leavers confused.
If they look to rent privately, they face a sector that is expensive and unwelcoming to young people on benefits.
40 per cent of care leavers say that not having enough savings for a deposit was a barrier to accessing accommodation.
3. They’re moving to an unfamiliar area
When care leavers are housed in places they don’t know, or at a distance from their support network, they can feel unsafe in their new environment.
Fear of living alone in an unfamiliar place can lead to mental health issues and even abandoning their new home for sofa surfing or worse.
A worrying 57 per cent of care leavers felt unsafe in the area where they first lived after leaving care.
4. They feel lonely and isolated
Loneliness and isolation are problems more commonly associated with older people, but many young care leavers struggle with the same issues when housed alone.
Without the right mentoring, support or information, problems like unhealthy relationships, mental breakdown, and the loss of their tenancy become more likely.
5. They have to get used to less support
The amount of support a young person gets after leaving care varies from area to area.
Things can easily be dropped or forgotten in the handover from their social worker to their new support team. After time spent in care, this can have a destabilising effect.
6. They could lose their tenancy: that means homelessness
Nobody should be facing homelessness shortly after leaving care, but more than one in four young care leavers have sofa surfed and 14 per cent have slept rough.
The combination of being underprepared to live independently, confused about your rights and obligations, lonely and isolated have made homelessness the painful reality for too many care leavers.
We need to do more. Read our report ‘From Care to Where’ to see the solutions Centrepoint is putting forward.