NAO warns on rise in NEET care leavers

17 Jul 15

The number of young people leaving care who are not in education, employment or training has increased in every year since 2007/08, with the current proportion costing the state £240m, auditors have said.

The National Audit Office examined support offered to care leavers by both central government and local authorities concluding that young people were not being supported effectively to live independent lives.

According to the report, 10,310 young people aged 16 and over left care in England in 2013/14. Of those aged 19, 41% were not in education, employment or training, compared to only 15% of their age-group peers.

It is also an increase on the 31% of 19-year-old care leavers who were NET in 2007/08.

The NAO estimated the lifetime cost of the current cohort of 19-year-old care leavers being NEET at around £240m, £150m more than if they had the same NEET rate as other 19-year-olds.

Support for care leavers comes mainly through local authorities but the quality and cost of services vary widely, today’s Care leavers’ transition to adulthood report stated.

Local authorities spent an average £6,250 for each care leaver in 2013/14, but this ranged from an estimated £300 to £20,000 and there was “minimal correlation” between local authorities’ reported spending on care leavers and the quantity and quality of their services.

Auditor general Amyas Morse said that addressing the poor life outcomes of young people leaving care was a longstanding problem and costs, if they did not adapt successfully, were high.

“The government has made a commitment to improve the support for these young people but the outcomes for many have been deteriorating over the last seven years,” he stated

“The government knows the scale of the challenge. Stronger central and local leadership is urgently required to get a grip on this problem.”

A Local Government Association spokesman said giving children who come into care the best opportunities was a major focus for councils.

“Councils do what they can to support all care leavers. Across the country, councils provide support for youngsters with housing, finding a job and financial support as they move towards an independent life.

“However, the growing number of young people coming into the care system alongside growing pressure on council budgets means that this is becoming an increasing challenge. Councils cannot do this alone and we desperately need to see the whole system properly funded and joined-up to ensure children and young people receive the support when they need it.”

Interpreting how much councils spend on individual young people through national spending figures was “extremely misleading”, he added, and did not provide an accurate picture of what is being done in local areas as all councils record their expenditure differently.

A Department for Education spokeswoman said: “We are committed to improving the lives of care leavers and helping them make a successful transition to adulthood.

“That’s why we have introduced a comprehensive series of reforms to achieve this - including changing the law so young people can live with their foster family after they turn 18 and giving every care leaver a personal adviser. We are also investing over £100m through the Innovation Programme to support vulnerable children, and funding programmes to get more care leavers into apprenticeships.”

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