This year, another 10,000 children would have left care, what will happen to them?
What happens when a kid has to leave care after their eighteenth birthday? Are they able to get a job? Do they go to university? Has the government, seen as the ‘parents’, given them the tools needed to succeed in their future endeavours?
Well, this year, a BBC Three documentary, ‘Kicked Out: Care to Chaos’ set out to find the answers. With her curly hair and fashionable dress sense along with her fresh face, Rebecca Southworth — who entered foster care because of her abusive father — narrates the personal stories of care leavers and their hardships. Not everyone can have that Tracy Beaker dream come true … .
Who’s to blame?
Coral, who is 17, has been dealing with anger issues and has struggled to settle in any care placement. She has felt that someone is to blame for her issues. As she discusses her life thus far with Rebecca, it’s like she is rapping a grime song about someone’s troubled past — ‘GBH, GBH, ABH, assault, assault and criminal damage, whatever, whatever’. It’s almost as if it is normal for her. But what if it’s the system that is making her this way? Is it a nature vs. nurture argument?
Coral remembers flicking pasta sauce with a spoon at another child. The carer told her she would be retrained and actually called the police. Even though she was shocked, she knew there was nothing she could do so gave in to discipline by saying ‘go on, retrain me then’. Rebecca knows that this would be a totally different story if she were living in a proper family. Underneath Coral’s hard exterior, she is just a child at heart.
Sometimes making bad decisions is our own fault, as when we don’t do our homework on time or pay that bill. When care leavers make bad decisions though, it can be more detrimental as many do not have anyone or anything to fall back on when even the system has given up on them. Rebecca meets 25-year-old Tyler who is homeless, living with his girlfriend and being helped by a local charity in Manchester. However, Rebecca is shocked to find that Tyler is actually an old school friend of hers. Even though he did go to university like Rebecca, she wonders why he is homeless. Would it be different if he had a family like Rebecca did? Or is this all his fault?
Care leavers find it harder to know what they want to do with their lives without good support. This is why they make bad choices like selling their body on the streets to make money. Rebecca took a trip to Cardiff where she met prostitutes who were care leavers being helped by a charity called ‘Safer Wales’. They provide a different approach and give them the necessary tools to help them stay safe. She met one individual who had been doing it from the age of just 13. Her Mum had passed away and she never got to know her Dad. She tells Rebecca that this is the only thing she has known.
Can having a warm, safe place to sleep solve all these issues?
We all know that living in a ‘house’ is different to living in a ‘home’. A home is where you feel comfortable and at peace. The care leavers that Rebecca meets want a home but keep coming into difficulties. Coral is not coping well with her temper and struggles financially because the benefits she gets are not enough. Later in the show, when Rebecca catches up with her, she finds out that she has been chucked out of her hostel and given a B&B for the night — which she wasn’t happy about. It is not surprising that she turned to alcohol that night when staying at her friend’s house.
Still, at least Coral has somewhere to sleep unlike 20-year-old Liam who has been squatting with a group of activists. This is because he lost his home that the government gave him, as he couldn’t keep up with the rent after his benefits were taken away. He says this was because he wasn’t attending his Job Centre appointments — another bad decision? Luckily, a local charity is helping him, but this help will soon run out when he turns 21.
Liam says that even though his life isn’t going so well, he feels that the activists are like a ‘family’ to him but then leave him to fend for himself because they want him to learn about life on his own … .
The importance of a ‘family unit’
Having a good family unit is crucial to all, even if these people are not blood-related. Rebecca was very lucky as her foster parents always made sure she was welcome and provided her with a ‘home’ even when they came to some family difficulties. Providing foster parents with the right support and information can make or brake bad situations concerning managing behaviour and other issues. This is why Rebecca meets Scott who does just this and was a care leaver himself once. He argues that being a foster parent can be draining and that it’s important to maintain the willingness not to give up, especially since many children coming into foster care may be emotionally ‘damaged’.
- Coral — she acknowledges she has to control her temper if she wants to lead a successful life by the time she’s 18!
- Liam — he is still trying to figure out how to be an adult without his activist family
- Tyler — he managed to get an appointment with the housing association for him and his girlfriend. Him and Rebecca both know that having a house is the beginning of a promising new life.
- 72 per cent of social workers in the UK don’t feel services are enough
- 1 in 4 homeless people are actually care leavers
- 70 per cent of prostitutes are care leavers
So, there we have it, it seems that making sure care leavers have similar opportunities to everyone else is part of a long list of things the government needs to sort out. They deserve some hope of having a future even if they are viewed as the scraps of society. It is not their fault that they have been abused or their parents died at a young age and their was no family member to look after them.
Though I did not vote for Corbyn, I do understand the sentiment behind his idea of having a more ‘kinder politics’.