Two senior Manchester MPs have stepped up the campaign to prevent vulnerable young people in foster care being forced to leave home at the age of 17.
Ann Coffey, MP for Stockport and Paul Goggins, MP for Wythenshawe and Sale East – who both have backgrounds working with troubled young people as social workers before they entered Parliament – said the situation was “crazy”.
The average age for leaving home for children in the UK is 24 and yet every year hundreds of the most vulnerable children in the country are forced to leave foster care before they are 18.
Many of those young people are not ready to make their own way in the world and become homeless, or get involved in drink and drugs, suffer depression and can become targets for sexual groomers and predators, if they leave care too early.
The two MPs launched an amendment to the Children and Families Bill last week, supporting by the Fostering Network, calling for young people to be allowed to stay with their foster carers until they are at least 21.
Edward Timpson, the children’s minister, said in the Commons that he had written to all directors of children’s services and that he wanted local councils to “prioritise” helping children to stay on in care.
He also said that if no progress was made he would consider whether fresh legislation was required.
Ann Coffey, who is the chair of the All Party Group for Runaway and Missing Children and Adults, said:
“The statistics on outcomes for care leavers are not good. One third of those living on the streets have a background in care, and almost a quarter of the adult prison population have spent time in care. Local authorities have a duty in care planning guidance to ensure that young people leave their foster care when they are ready and not before.
“What difference have we made as corporate parents if children in our care end up on the streets, in jail or with disabling mental health problems – another generation doomed to mirror the lives of their parents? We should let them stay with their foster carers, if they want to, for those important extra three years.”
Paul Goggins, who is secretary of the All Party Group on Poverty, said:
“We all have a responsibility to make sure that young people in care get the support they need. When a troubled teenager finds love and stability in a foster family it is cruel and short sighted to force them to leave at 17. Allowing them to stay with their foster carers until at least 21 would be a step in the right direction”.