Extra support for care leavers in pandemic response measures made positive impact
A new report has found that during the pandemic care leavers’ well-being did not decline and in some areas improved slightly, which experts suggest could be down to additional support made available.
Results of a new survey suggest that extra support made available for care leavers over the pandemic had a positive impact on their wellbeing.
The report by Coram Voice, a charity which works in a variety of different areas in order to support children and young people in care and care leavers, found that before the pandemic a higher proportion of care leavers experienced anxiety, felt lonely, struggled financially, had lower life satisfaction and lacked good friends when compared to the general population.
The report is a follow-up to ‘What makes life good?’, a report published in 2020 about the views of care leavers on their well-being, using responses collected between 2017 and 2019 through the ‘Your life beyond care’ survey.
In this latest report, pre-pandemic data from 1,804 care leavers is compared to data from 2,476 care leavers who responded to the survey in the first year of the pandemic.
Care leavers aged 16 to 25 were asked the same questions at both time points: about where they lived, feeling safe, financial well-being, and their relationships with workers, emotional support, stress, loneliness and overall well-being,
Given the greater challenges care leavers faced during the pandemic, the charity said it expected that wellbeing could have deteriorated. However, on most measures, few differences in care leavers’ well-being were found, with no significant change reported in levels of stress, anxiety, life satisfaction and loneliness experienced as a consequence of the pandemic.
(Read the study ‘Care leavers, Covid-19 and the transition from care’: https://www.beds.ac.uk/goldbergcentre/research/goldberg-current-research/cctc)
Recent research by the University of Bedfordshire showed that many local authorities put in place additional support for care leavers during the pandemic, in addition to national support initiatives including the uplift to Universal Credit and free laptops and internet access for care leavers.
The authors of the report said there appears to have been a greater focus on well-being and challenges that young people were experiencing during this period, which may have staved off a decline in well-being and accounted for some of these slight improvements.
One care leaver surveyed said: “The support given to me recently from social services has been phenomenal as due to COVID I lost my job and have been struggling to pay my bills ever since…I have little to no work and can’t claim universal credit, so without the help of social services I really don’t know what I would do.”
Linda Briheim-Crookall, Head of Policy and Practice Development at Coram Voice, said the results were positive, but that challenges that existed before the pandemic persisted.
“This report shows that challenging times do not inevitably lead to a decline in well-being for care leavers. Investment in support can start to chip away at the gap between care leavers and their peers. It is now all the more imperative that the gains made during the pandemic are not lost. We need to explore further and share the practice that makes care leavers’ lives better.
“We also need to recognise that many of the challenges that were there before the pandemic are still there and it continues to be imperative to address them. While the pandemic has highlighted the strengths of local authorities and practitioners in responding to the needs of care leavers in challenging times, the report also shows that local authorities and practitioners need to continue to be proactive in contacting care leavers and responding to their needs, offering financial and digital support and keeping in touch more frequently and in different ways in order to secure a long-term impact.”
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