Behind the numbers: What statistics don’t tell us about care leavers

Measuring statistics is an important part of understanding our community. The numbers show us societal trends, offering insight into our collective experience. But we must not forget that behind every number is a unique story; an individual with their own goals, challenges and potential.

At Bold Leap, we recognise that individuality is what makes us special. That despite being part of a statistically or historically disadvantaged group, there is no limit to what we can achieve.

This article highlights not only the recorded statistics about cared for children in the UK but also emphasises the unmeasured. Read on to learn about the potential and the character behind every number.

What do statistics tell us about care leavers?

Home for Good recently published a statistical report outlining key figures from 2019-2020 about looked after children in the UK. Drawing on data from local governments, they uncovered the rising numbers of looked after children, with the main reason being abuse or neglect. Every day, 109 children enter the UK’s overwhelmed and under-resourced care system.

The report had a section exclusively for care leavers, stating that 8,600 children age out of the system each year. Here’s what else we learnt about care leavers in England:

  • 39% aged 19-21 were not in education, employment or training compared to 12% of all young people aged 19-21. 
  • Half of the young men (under 21) in custody are care experienced.
  • A quarter of all homeless people have experience in the care system. 
  • Within the first two years of leaving care, one third were homeless.

These statistics show us that compared to all young people, care leavers experience a greater risk of becoming homeless, uneducated, unemployed or incarcerated.

Instead of accepting these statistics as a blueprint for future generations, we need to look at why this is happening. Why are 1 in 3 care leavers becoming homeless after two years out of the system? Why aren’t we encouraging more care leavers to pursue education and employment? How can we support young people to close these tremendous gaps?

We believe one of the key answers is support during the crucial transition between teenage years and adulthood independence. Creating a solid foundation in these critical years is vital. We can achieve this by offering a holistic approach that includes education, community involvement, life skills development and support from mentors with the skills to make a difference. At Bold Leap, this tailored, comprehensive support is a non-negotiable part of everything we do.

What the statistics don’t show.   

Government published statistics offer some insight into the care leaver experience, but we cannot generalise based on these figures, nor can we understand how young people are truly feeling.

Dr Claire Baker of Coram Voice discusses these discrepancies, mainly related to whether care leavers feel settled or lonely. In her report, 1 in 5 care leavers reported feeling lonely all or most of the time compared to 1 in 10 of the general population. Moreover, government statistics showed that 84% of care leavers were in ‘suitable’ accommodation. In Dr Baker’s study, a third said that their accommodation didn’t suit their needs.

Behind every number, there is a young person in need of tailored support. Whether they need help with mental health, finances, health, education or finding accommodation, we must acknowledge that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to support.

Bold Leap’s mission is to redefine and improve supported accommodation services in London. With the right support, young people can achieve incredible things and contribute to their community as thriving, independent adults. The worst thing we could do is ignore anyone’s potential because a statistic has already decided their future.

To connect with the Bold Leap team, leave your details in our contact form. We look forward to hearing from you.