Professional Zone

Young people leaving care are seven times more likely to have low life satisfaction than their peers

Posted date: 
01 Apr 19

Our new survey 'Our Lives Beyond Care' as part of our Bright Spots programme has found that almost one in four (23%) care leavers aged 16-25 have low life satisfaction, compared to just 3% of 16-24 year olds in the general population.

The survey also reveals some more encouraging findings, with 96% of care leavers saying that they trust their worker and 86% saying they feel involved in plans made about their future.

Compared to the general population of young people, much higher proportions of care leavers have low wellbeing across a number of measures[2]. A fifth (20%) 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 one in five (19%) of care leavers said they feel lonely always or most of the time, compared to one in ten young people in the general population.

Money and access to technology are two of the areas explored in the research, as factors connected to wellbeing. Almost a fifth (19%) of care leavers said they find it difficult to cope financially, compared to just 7% of young people in the general population, whilst 80% said they have access to the internet at home, compared to 91% of other young people.

One young person commented: “I think mental health is a huge factor for care leavers… a lot of care leavers don’t transition into adult services as well as they should” whilst another said “My depression and anxiety [stops me having fun]. There seems to be no support unless you pay for it and I can’t afford to pay for it.”

The Our Lives Beyond Care study surveyed 474 young people across six local authorities in England about their wellbeing and experiences of leaving the care system, in a pilot that will be rolled-out across further local authorities over the coming year.

The survey was developed and delivered in collaboration with care leavers themselves, and complements the existing Our Lives, Our Care study, the largest annual survey measuring the wellbeing of nearly 3,000 children and young people in care. Both studies are part of the Bright Spots Programme led by Coram Voice and Professor Julie Selwyn which enables local authorities to find out directly from young people in and leaving care what wellbeing means to them, what is working well and areas for improvement.

Currently, the Department for Education only collects data for care leavers in three areas – whether their local authority is in touch with them, whether they are in education, employment or training, and whether they are in suitable accommodation[3]. This survey focuses on what care leavers feel themselves about their experiences and provides unique insight by comparing care leavers’ wellbeing with their peers.

The Our Lives Beyond Care study also compares care leavers’ results with those from Our Lives, Our Care of children and young people still in care. This highlighted a decrease in scores related to home life, with only 63% of care leavers saying they always feel safe where they live, compared to 88% of children in care, and 50% of care leavers reporting that they always feel settled at home, compared to 77% of children in care.

However, one area that was more positive for care leavers was the consistency of workers, with 61% saying they have had the same worker for the past year, compared to 34% of children in care.

One young person commented: “My worker is really nice and has helped me reduce some of the anxiety I feel about leaving the care system and being left alone.”

Brigid Robinson, Managing Director of Coram Voice, said: "Our Lives Beyond Care gives us much-needed insight into how care leavers themselves really feel about their lives and what is important to them. 

It is encouraging that the report highlights some positive findings, however we know more needs to be done to ensure that all young people leaving care have access to the same opportunities and support as other young people to allow them to lead happy and fulfilled lives. That is what the Bright Spots Programme, working with partner local authorities, hopes to achieve and why Coram Voice supports local authorities to respond to what their young people have said by highlighting what works and sharing practical solutions that can make a real difference for young people.”

Coram Voice is hosting a sector event on 1 April 2019 to disseminate the findings of the report, with the Minister for Children and Families Nadhim Zahawi MP among the speakers.

Read the full Our Lives Beyond Care findings here.

Find out more about our Bright Spots programme here.

2] The Our Lives Beyond Care study compares data on the wellbeing of care leavers aged 16-25 with data from the Office of National Statistics on 16-24 year olds in the general population.

[3] DfE (2018) Children looked after in England including adoption: 2017 to 2018: https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/children-looked-after-in-englan...