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Wednesday, 8 December, 1999, 14:29 GMT
'Better deal' for care leavers
teenager Teenagers forced to leave care 'before they're ready'

Special life plans are to be drawn up for young people leaving local authority care, in an attempt to improve their opportunities and aspirations.

Teenagers will also be allocated a Young Person's Advisor to give them support with the transition from care to independent life.

Junior health minister Lord Hunt of Kings Heath spelled out the measures at the opening of a second reading debate on the Children (Leaving Care) Bill.

The legislation will require local authorities to support the needs of 16 and 17-year-old children, whether they are chosing to leave care or not.

The responsible authority would be the last one in which the child was cared for, regardless of if they then moved.

Pathway on 16th birthday

He told the Lords that vulnerable young people leaving local authority care will be given a "fair deal" to prevent them ending up living in poverty and deprivation.

He said: "We believe that young people in and leaving care have not been getting a fair deal.

"Their live chances have been unacceptably restricted, too many have ended up socially excluded, without qualifications, without jobs, without homes."

Teenagers will be given an individual Pathway Plan from their 16th birthday, "mapping out a clear pathway towards independence".

Teenagers will be involved

Lord Hunt said that too many young people were being forced to leave local authority care before they were ready.

He told told the House that action was needed "to tackle the perverse incentive" for local authorities to discharge young people from care at 16.

He promised that the new legislation would change the situation where the financial burden of supporting the youngsters is shifted onto the benefits system.

The Bill obliges local authorities to assist a care leaver in higher education, with holiday accommodation and with education and training up to the age of 24 - depending on the start dates of courses.

The minister said that young people themselves would be directly involved in drawing up the plans.

And he added: "No longer will local authorities be able to forget their responsibilities to the young people who leave their care.

"It is important that young people are helped to prepare and plan for their futures, to enable them to achieve their aspirations."

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See also:
16 Jul 98 |  Education
Children in care 'face failure'
17 Jun 99 |  Education
Schools told to take more care

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