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Our work

Positive Futures:
Children In and
Leaving Care

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Neglected Minds: our report on mental health support for younger people leaving care

There are stark differences in the rates of mental ill-health among looked after children compared to their non-care experienced peers. Recently-issued guidance from the Department for Education and Department of Health recommends initial health assessments for all children entering care. However, despite this, evidence continues to suggest that assessment of the mental health needs of looked after children is patchy.

In 2017, we conducted a small scale study3 in some of our leaving care services in England and found that:

  • 46% of the Barnardo’s care leaver cases which were reviewed as part of this research involved young people, who in the opinion of their personal adviser, had mental health needs
  • a quarter of the case files involved a young person who had faced a mental health crisis since leaving care
  • 65% of young people whom workers identified as having mental health needs were not currently receiving any statutory service.

Focus group discussions revealed that professionals often do not have sufficient understanding of mental health and how to support young people.

The mental health services which are available are also too inflexible to meet the specific needs of care leavers.4

Lives to be proud of: Support for care-experienced young people, Merthyr Tydfil

In Wales, we consulted with 19 young people aged 19-25, to gain their views on the how we can effectively support this age group14. The research focused on the role of Personal Advisers and Pathway Plans15 for 21-25 year olds, which the Welsh Government has agreed to provide for children leaving care up until the age of 25.

The findings show that the support available during this transition period needs to be tailored to each individual and is likely to change at different points in the journey. In order of importance, young people said they wanted help with:

  • managing money
  • housing
  • filling in forms, and advice on where to go for more support
  • finding a job.

In addition, support with making sure young people’s voices are heard; attending appointments with a young person; independent living skills; and emotional support were reported to be important.


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Figure 7: Foster carer satisfaction survey, 2017
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Joel’s story

Barnardo’s gave me a place to find my feet and start to realise who I am. The staff respected me as a person and I didn’t feel like I was being punished anymore.


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Figure 8: Outcomes for young people in Barnardo’s supported lodgings services, 2017-18
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Wider learning

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Figure 9: Barnardo’s ETS services, 2013/14 – 2016/17
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