CLWYD SOUTH AM KEN SKATES has welcomed the launch of a new Welsh Government scheme to help young people in care make a successful transition to adult life.
Back in January the AM proposed a Private Members Bill in the Assembly to ensure looked after children could stay with their current foster carer after the age of 18 should they wish to do so.
After receiving cross-party support in the Assembly, the Welsh Government agreed to work with the AM to bring forward its own scheme which it has launched for a 12-week consultation today.
It comes as the latest statistics on looked after children show the numbers of children in care has risen 6% in the last year and 24% in the last five years.
Clwyd South AM Ken Skates said:
“I’m delighted that the Welsh Government takes seriously the issues facing care leavers and is launching this new scheme to support young people as they make the important transition from care to adult life.
“The challenges faced by any young person as they make the move into adult life are very great indeed, but for those in care it can be especially daunting. This new scheme, ‘When I Am Ready’, is designed to give young people approaching the end of care the same firm foundations to begin adult life as their peers.
“It’s designed to give them the chance to extend the period in which they remain in a supportive environment and stop some of our most fragile and most vulnerable young people from leaving the care system abruptly and setting up for a life on their own without the skills they need to thrive.
“Though children in care are a lot safer than they were a decade ago, many lack the educational qualifications, housing support and emotional help they need to flourish in adulthood straight away and struggle as a consequence. Families continue to give help and support to their own children well after the age of 18 and we as corporate parents need to be doing the same thing.
“There is no ‘silver bullet’ to the challenges of being in care, but ‘When I Am Ready’ is designed to be a constructive system of support that can offer a chance for care leavers to make a success of their young lives.”
The proposed scheme “When I Am Ready” will offer eligible children the opportunity to stay with their foster carers beyond the age of 18. This recognises that not all young adults are ready to move to living on their own, especially if they are vulnerable or have complex health, learning or other needs.
This scheme would also allow young people to complete their education or training without surrendering the support network that they are used to.
A 12-week consultation on the scheme begins today (Tuesday, 9 October) and there will also be a young-persons version of the consultation so the Welsh Government can get the views of young people themselves in care.
Gwenda Thomas, Deputy Minister for Children and Social Services, said:
“This is great news for young people in foster care. Many of these young people have already had disrupted lives and they may lack the stable support network needed to move on to independent living, yet this can happen when they are much younger than their peers.
“Councils will need to be creative and innovative in implementing the scheme in their areas and reflect this in their commission of placements for 18 to 21-year-old care leavers.
“This scheme is about offering young people choice and control over their placement and giving them support when they decide they are ready to move on.
“I’d like to thank Ken Skates AM for addressing this very important issue and for the work he has done consulting organisations and young people on what they would want from this scheme.”
The consultation will be open until 4th January 2013.
This consultation is a direct result of the Continuity from Care into Adult Life Bill proposed by Ken Skates AM in October 2011 and the motion agreed by the National Assembly for Wales in its plenary debate of 11 January 2012.
The Bill will not proceed as there is scope within the current law to introduce the “When I am Ready” scheme without further legislation.
Adoptions, Outcomes and Placements for Children Looked After by Local Authorities, Year ending 31 March 2012 (27 September 2012):
• In the year ending 31 March 2012, 5,726 children and young people were looked after in Wales, a rise of 6 per cent (310) on the previous year and of 24 per cent over the last five years.
• In Wales, just under 1 per cent of the population under 18 years is looked after.
• Over three-quarters (77 per cent) of children looked after were in foster placements and 9 per cent (524) of them had three or more placements within that year.
• The percentage of former looked after children aged 16 or over attaining 5 or more GCSEs at grades A* to G was 39 per cent, an increase of 4 per cent on 2010/11. Those receiving 5 or more A* to C grades is significantly lower, at 12 per cent (a 2 per cent increase on the previous year). These are both far below the comparative figures of 90 per cent (attaining 5 or more GCSEs at A* to G) and 57 per cent (A* to C) for all children of this age.
• Between 1 April 2011 and 31 March 2012, 387 young people ceased to be looked after, but 93 per cent of these remained in touch with their local authority.
• Only 47 per cent of 19 year old care leavers were known to be in education, training or employment, compared with 78 per cent of all 19-24 year olds. This is a slight decrease, of 1 per cent, on the previous year.
• The recent Children’s Commissioners Report ‘Lost After Care,’ highlighted the problems that care leavers fall in to. It indicated that support services are often inconsistent across Wales with some local authorities doing more than others to take into account the needs of care leavers.