VULNERABLE older teenagers on the edges of the care system require more help from local authorities as they enter adulthood, a report published by the Children’s Society said this week.
The report, Crumbling Futures, says that little is known about the outcomes for children who are assessed as being “in need” but who have not been placed in care.
The “limited data” provided by local authorities that responded to Freedom of Information requests suggests that, compared with their peers, children who are “in need” are more likely to have poor educational attainments at the age of 17, be out of work or education, claim benefits, and experience homelessness.
“Help for vulnerable 16- and 17-year-olds who are not in care, too often falls short, then disappears from the age of 18, as they continue to struggle with issues including mental health, sexual exploitation, poverty, and homelessness,” the chief executive of the Children’s Society, Matthew Reed, said this week.
He called for “a comprehensive package of help” for vulnerable teenagers after they turn 18.
Children are assessed as being “in need” if their health and development is likely to be compromised without support from the local authority. They might be referred after experiencing domestic violence, mental ill-health, drug or alcohol abuse, or if they are at risk of child sexual exploitation.
About one in three referrals comes from the police. The Children’s Society suggests that this is further evidence that these children are “falling between the cracks”. Of those who receive support, about 40 per cent receive it for less than three months. Unlike children in care, they are not entitled to support after the age of 18.
The report welcomes the review of provision for children in need, which was announced by the Government this year. But it urges an expansion to include a focus on the transition to adulthood.
The report also warns that, in the current funding climate, councils are “increasingly struggling to provide help to all but the most serious cases where a child is at risk of harm”. It calls on the Government to give councils extra funding so that they can provide “a comprehensive package of help” to those aged 18 or above.
The report is the third study to be published as part of the Children’s Society’s “Seriously Awkward” campaign, which focuses on the needs of vulnerable 16- and 17-year-olds.
The first report, in 2015, warned that they were “falling painfully between the cracks” of childhood and adulthood, as statutory services failed to recognise their needs (News, 26 June 2015).