Care leavers and looked after children

Who are care leavers?

Care leavers are young people aged over 16 who have been in local authority care, some for all of their childhood, and have subsequently left the care system or are in the process of doing so.

Facts and figures

There are around 70,000 children in care in England at any one time, which is the equivalent of 0.6% of all children. Every year, around 10,000 16-18 year olds leave foster or residential care in England. Many young people leaving care face serious disadvantage in their lives, compared to their peers.

Infographic showing the disadvantage faced by care leavers

Why are care leavers important to Learning and Work Institute?

Learning and Work Institute believes that we all have a responsibility to enable care leavers, many of whom have had very difficult experiences as children, to have excellent opportunities as they make the transition into independent adult life. Having appropriate support to access meaningful education, training and work opportunities can be key for care leavers to achieve their goals and ambitions in life.

Watch the video below to hear how care leaver Adele transformed her life through learning.

What is Learning and Work Institute doing to improve care leavers’ lives?

We research what works for care leavers in different contexts. Our report on localised approaches to supporting care leavers and looked after children is just one example of how we research effective approaches to supporting this group of young people and share this with practitioners and policy makers.

We work with policy makers and campaign for change for care leavers. We’ve supported the development of the government’s new Care Leaver Covenant and are working closely with the Department for Education to help implement some of the commitments in the 2016 care leaver strategy.

We produce free resources for care leavers and the staff and organisations who support them, to help improve care leavers’ access to meaningful and sustainable learning and employment opportunities.

Our Skills Support for Care Leavers website has a wealth of information on the different learning, training and employment options available to care leavers in England. It aims to help care leavers make decisions about education and work, and find out what support they can get along the way.

Our Really Useful Book of Learning and Earning (RUBLE) for Care Leavers also provides useful information, advice and activities to help care leavers in England get used to living independently and make decisions about education and work. It includes information about taking up learning or paid work, care leavers’ rights and what support they can get.

We’ve also developed a staff guide which aims to support staff in encouraging and helping care leavers to use the RUBLE, in addition to being a useful resource for guidance and signposting to further information.

Our guide for employers to supporting care leavers in the workplace highlights ways in which employers of all sizes, and from all sectors of the economy, can make a difference in supporting care leavers to develop the skills, experience and confidence they need to gain, stay and progress in work.

We worked with Buttle UK to produce a guide for FE colleges and other learning providers, based on effective approaches adopted across the UK through the Buttle UK Quality Mark. The guide showcases four colleges that achieved the Buttle UK Quality Mark at exemplary level, and a number of other colleges that developed effective practice to support better outcomes for care leavers. We’ve adapted this into a self-assessment and action planning resource for providers across the learning and skills sector in Wales.

We worked with care leavers to develop the Inspire Me! app, which enables former care leavers who are now living independently and learning or working, to share their positive stories. The app is available for free download on all devices from the app store and iTunes.

Join our network

If you’d like to be kept up-to-date on Learning and Work Institute’s work on care leavers and looked after children, please get in touch.