Keith Towler urges more help for children leaving care

Vulnerable young people in Wales have told the children's commissioner how frightening it is to leave care.

Keith Towler said many young people were required to leave care before they were ready, and the support provided was inconsistent.

His Lost After Care report also says social workers should spend quality time with young people and not feel swamped by paperwork.

He is unveiling a guide at the Senedd to help those leaving care.

Mr Towler said the transition to independent living was frightening for many looked-after children.

"One of the big messages that I get from children in care now and those that have left care is how scary it is to leave care," he told BBC Wales.

He said was struck that support for children leaving care was inconsistent, although they were safer in care than 10 or 15 years ago.

Every year, about 6,000 looked-after children in Wales leave the care system. Most of them are aged 18, but some are younger.

After researching the experiences of 120 young people who were in foster or residential care or who had left care, Mr Towler said it was evident they had very mixed experiences of being involved with social services.

Marking the 10th year of his office, Mr Towler's report underlines the importance of young people establishing a good relationship with their social workers.

It adds that social workers "should not feel swamped under the pressure of target-hitting, paperwork and administration tasks", which prevent them from spending "quality time with the young people".

The report ends with a series of suggested service improvements for the Welsh Government, local authorities and for the inspectorates.

"Each authority does differ and the experience of children coming through the care system does differ," he said.

He added that local authorities should make sure that all young people leaving care received relevant financial education and were supported in their transition to adulthood by standardised grants.

In a message to social workers, Mr Towler said: "What is clear is that with dedicated support from foster carers, professionals and corporate parents many of these young people can and will prosper. But currently too many are falling at the first hurdle."

He is launching a guide for young people about the support they are entitled to when leaving care.

Copies have been sent to all local authorities in Wales and will be given to every young person in care on their 15th birthday.

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