In a previous article, I looked at the Leaving Care Act and questioned what ‘keeping in touch’ with care leavers really means and whether that is enough.
The Leaving Care Act has two main aims:
1. To ensure that young people do not leave care until they are ready
2. To ensure that they receive more effective support once they have left
Here, I talk to a care leaver about his personal experiences.
Can you tell us a bit about how you came into the care system?
"Of course, it's sad but I guess there are loads of kids with sad stories aren't there? Basically, mum left us and my dad and we didn't hear anything from her. We still don't know where she is now.
My dad lost it and although he tried to keep it all together for a while we were all too much for him. He got into all sorts and ended up going to prison. We don't have any other family around so that was that basically.
The three youngest got this really nice foster family. I've met them and they seem like good people. Me and my sister ended up in a residential unit.
She got pregnant not long after that and went to this mother and baby unit so it was just me left on my own.
I hated it to be honest and I didn't behave well because I was just so fed up and lost."
Have you maintained your relationship with your siblings?
"I don't see my sister. I can't stand her boyfriend to be honest. I try to keep in touch with the younger ones but they are so settled I don’t want to ruin that for them. I'm happy they have a nice family and they are settled in school and stuff. One of them is even swimming in competitions and stuff. I'm really proud of him because life has been tough and he also has health issues."
How did you find the support from social services?
"It was mixed to be honest. If you'd asked me a year ago I would have told you it was rubbish, but I’ve had time to think now and I know I wasn't the easiest to work with.
I do think it's partly luck who you get though and it's also about who you connect with. As a lad I preferred a bloke and I had this young bloke for a while who just got me. I really felt he was going out of his way to help me and every day now I remind myself if some of the things he told me. Things like choosing the best path and to never give up have really stuck with me.
It wasn’t all good. The support that is. There were times when I couldn't get any answers and people didn't get back to me and times when I just felt people had no clue what they were doing. I was cross with them at the time, but now I think I feel sorry for them, as they had no support and needed more guidance from somewhere. I feel bad now that I was such a nightmare."
How has the ‘keeping in touch’ element worked for you since leaving care?
"I’m sorry. I don’t like to be negative but I have to saying ‘keeping in touch’ is a total joke. I’ve had an email and a phone call in two years. Both were from someone I didn’t even know and who didn’t seem to have even looked at my file. That annoyed me really.
They asked if I was ok and if I needed support with anything. I listed off a few things I was struggling with at the time and was told someone would get back to me. They didn’t. I rang back and left a message but never heard anything again."
How is life now?
"Actually, life is surprisingly ok. I managed to get a free pass to a local gym a few months back and I started spending all my time there. I met this fitness instructor and he sort of coached me a bit. Anyway, basically he’s helped me to get on this personal trainers course which I’m so excited about. It’s great to find something I love that can be my job as well.
I’ve got a great group of friends from the gym as well and things are going well at the moment, but I feel like I did most of that on my own so I feel quite lucky and quite pleased with myself at the moment."
How would you change the support for care leavers?
"I think they need some way to match workers and young people, you know, so people actually get what you are about. Then they need to actually keep in touch!
There’s a few online networks I’ve found but I found them myself so some more information would help.
I think mostly its common sense really. If you had your own child, you’d expect them to still need you well into their twenties wouldn’t you? Some of my mates still live with their parents now. I don’t have that option."
How effective do you think support for care leavers is in your area? We’d love to know.