Charley Lincoln, Northampton Socialist Party

In 2019, the Tories tasked Josh MacAlister to oversee an independent review of the children’s social care system, predicting that in England, within the next ten years, the number of children in care would increase from 80,000 to 100,000. The cost to taxpayers will be £23 billion per year. The review asks for £2.6 billion over four years to reset the system.

The former Minister for Children, Claire Coutinho, (appointed in 2022, the 11th since that review), said the government was putting just £200 million into the reforms as a ‘kick start’ before investing more. TV personality Joe Swash has covered this in his recent BBC documentary ‘Teens in Care’. After talking with Coutinho, Joe said: “They know the issues and what they need to do, but it’s like an iceberg, and they only play on the top, and so much more on the bottom, kids that need help – I can’t help feel we’re setting them up for failure”.

Joe expressed that his interest in making the documentary is due to his mum’s choice to foster once her children left home. She saw the state fail to support the transition between being looked after to leaving care.

Foster Care Allowance and Young Persons Allowance stop the day a dependant turns 18. Young people must hope their local authority has allocated a Personal Advisor (PA) who can make referrals for support. These individuals, often preparing for their A-level exams, now discover they must apply for Universal Credit (UC) and housing applications on their birthday, as they are now essentially homeless.

Local authorities are required to find ‘aged-out care leavers’ a home, but due to the housing crisis, those who are most vulnerable are being put in unstable accommodation, such as sofa surfing. Those lucky enough to be provided a home are left to wait while being allocated a PA to access a grant for white goods and furniture. Despite a legal responsibility to provide a PA, most local authorities are underfunded, and many young people are moved into empty flats with no income, with no control over how their adulthood begins.

Care leavers making it into higher education find they don’t qualify for UC while in full-time education. Care leavers in college rely on bursaries in term-time and any employment they can find, all while running their own household for the first time. Shockingly, only 13% of care leavers make it to university compared to 37.5% of 18-year-olds.

Legally, local authorities have a duty of care until the care leaver is 25 if they’re in education or have additional needs. Meaning they must provide accommodation outside of term-time.

Individuals in care are ‘children of the state’ – the state is their ‘corporate parent’. You can tell a lot from the treatment they get from the government – proof of the contempt that the Tories have for young people.

We need local authorities to be willing to set no-cuts budgets, using cash reserves and borrowing to fund essential services, and building a campaign with the support of trade unions and young people to demand the money from rich-list Rishi’s government.