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Charities call on Lords to ensure homes for care leavers

Forty charities, other organisations and academics have joined together to call on the House of Lords to support a once-a-generation chance to change the law so that fostered young people in England can stay with their foster carers until the age of 21.

Currently most young people are forced to leave their foster homes at the age of 17. In contrast, the average age for leaving home across England is 24.

According to the Fostering Network, only around 7% of care leavers go into higher education compared with 40% of the general population. Care leavers are overrepresented in prison populations, and are more likely to be unemployed, single parents, mental health service users and homeless than those who grew up within their own families.

Now an amendment to the Children and Families Bill provides an opportunity to change this for future generations, by giving young people who live with foster carers the chance to stay until they are 21, if both parties agree. But in order to have any chance of success, the amendment needs widespread support in the House of Lords, where the Bill is about to enter committee stage.

When the Bill was in the House of Commons, children's minister Edward Timpson MP, himself the son of foster carers, said that he would consider legislation if the voluntary approach was shown not be working. Latest statistics released by the Department for Education showed that only ten more young people stayed with their foster carers in 2012-13 than in 2011-12. In total, just 5% of all care leavers were still with their foster carers by the age of 19.

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