Care leavers’ transition to adulthood





This (2015) report examines the support for and challenges facing care leavers, government policy and actions, and progress made in improving outcomes.

1. Every year around 10,000 16- to 18-year-olds leave foster or residential care in England. Children in care must leave local authority care by their 18th birthday. Local authorities must support care leavers until they are 21 years old (or 25 if they are in education or training). On leaving care, some young people return home to their families but many start to live independent lives. The government wants to ensure that care leavers get the same care and support that their peers would expect from a reasonable parent, such as help finding a job or setting up home. It also wants them to have the opportunities they need to move successfully to adulthood.

2. Central and local government both have a role in supporting care leavers. The Department for Education sets the overall framework for the delivery of support to care leavers. It gives statutory guidance to local authorities, collects information on care leavers and makes data and research on good practice publicly available. Other departments support housing, training, welfare and other needs. Support is mainly given by local authorities. They need to ensure that care leavers get comprehensive personal support to help them achieve their potential as they make their transition to adulthood. This support includes finding them somewhere suitable to live and supporting them into employment, education or training. Local authorities reported that they had spent £265 million on care leaver services in 2013-14.

3. The government recognises the quality of support for care leavers has been patchy and that their journey through life can be lonely, disrupted, unstable and troubled. Those leaving care may struggle to cope with the transition to adulthood. They may experience social exclusion, unemployment, health problems or end up in custody. Care leavers have had these problems for a long time.

4. In 2013 the government published the Care Leaver Strategy. This set out how it planned to improve support for care leavers, including in housing, health, employment and education, by co-ordinating the work of different departments. In the same year Ofsted began to inspect local authorities’ services for care leavers and report on their quality.


Reference:  NAO. (2015), Care leavers’ transition to adulthood. London: NAO




This report has been prepared under Section 6 of the National Audit Act 1983 for presentation to the House of Commons in accordance with Section 9 of the Act.



Crown copyright material is reproduced here under the Open Government Licence for public sector information.

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