Coram Voice has today (30 October 2020) released an executive summary of the report ‘What Makes Life Good? Care Leavers Views on their Wellbeing’. Created in collaboration with The Rees Centre, this is a new analysis of the views and experiences of over 1,800 care leavers in England and has identified 10 key issues that lead to high wellbeing, as well as recommendations for improvements.
The research highlights the importance of understanding how care leavers feel about their lives, their hopes and feelings, in order to deliver high quality services and support. While government statistics focus on objective measures and professional assessments such as education and employment, this gives only a partial picture of care leavers lives. This study is the first of its kind in examining the subjective wellbeing of a large sample of care leavers by including their voice in the conversation.
The report found that that high wellbeing in care leavers is associated with feeling less lonely and stressed, happier with how they look, feeling settled, positive about the future and experiencing positive feelings and emotions. Having people in their lives providing emotional support, as well as feeling that they were treated the same or better than other young people and were feeling safe where they were living were also identified as indicators of high wellbeing.
Brigid Robinson, Managing Director of Coram Voice, said: “Our What Makes Life Good report firmly puts the voices of young people leaving care central by understanding from their experiences, what makes life good. Our aspirations for young people leaving care should be the same as for our own children; that they thrive and grow to become confident young adults able to find their way in the world.
“To achieve this, we need to understand what is important to them; what they love doing, their hopes and feelings and what could make things better. What Makes Life Good does this, and through this unique insight into young care leavers subjective wellbeing, provides clear recommendations for policy and practice to make life better for young people leaving care so they can flourish into adulthood.”
Care leavers were asked the same four questions used in Office for National Statistics (ONS) surveys with the general population of the same age, enabling a direct comparison of wellbeing between the two groups. The focus on factors that can improve care leavers’ wellbeing emerged after the research found that much higher proportions of care leavers have low wellbeing across a range of measures compared to the general population of young people. Over a quarter (26%) have low life satisfaction compared to just 3% of 16-24 year olds in the general population. Nearly a quarter (23%) of care leavers said they did not feel that things they did in life were worthwhile, in contrast to just 4% of their peers, whilst more than one in five (22%) of care leavers said they feel lonely always or most of the time, compared to one in ten young people in the general population.
In addition to the disparity between care leavers and young people in the general population, the report has also found significant variation between care leavers’ wellbeing across the different local authorities. Only 14% of care leavers experienced low wellbeing at the highest performing local authority which increased to 44% at the lowest performing local authority.
The report calls for leaving care services to be “levelled up” and for care leavers’ positive experiences to be replicated for all young people in care.
One care leaver said: “There needs to be a national service that offers all the same services to everyone. It doesn’t make sense for one care leaver to be exceptionally comfortable and another to be destitute.”
Key recommendations for local authorities, guided by factors that care leavers themselves have identified, include:
- Improving connections and trusting relationships and addressing loneliness.
- Providing emotional and mental health support to address stress, negativity and help care leavers feel good about their future.
- Providing money management and financial support to help care leavers cope financially.
Improving accommodation support to help care leavers feel safe and settled in their homes.
This executive summary is published ahead of the full report. The report is the first in a series of reports analysing the responses of 10,000 care leavers and children in care on what makes a positive difference to their wellbeing.