VULNERABLE young people should be allowed to stay in care until they are aged 25, says a Coventry councillor formerly in charge of children services.
Former children’s cabinet member, councillor Jim O’Boyle, is supporting the same call from Children’s Commissioner for England, Anne Longfield.
She added a survey of nearly 3,000 children and young adults found nearly a third of them believed they had been forced to look after themselves too early.
She said most parents would not “wave goodbye” to children at 18 and “we shouldn’t do so for children in care”.
Young people leaving care too early after previously being victims of abuse or neglect were often vulnerable and prone to drugs, alcohol and crime, she said.
Her words came as Coventry City Council is desparately seeking to find more adoptive and fostering families, with high numbers of children in care.
Labour Coun O’Boyle said: “I see England’s Children’s Commissioner has said young people in care should be allowed to stay in care until they are 25. How I agree!
“At the moment, unless young people are in full-time education, a local authority has to break all connections once they reach adulthood. What parent would ever do that to their child?
“When I was cabinet member in Coventry, I arranged against official policy to help some children stay with their foster parents after the date a local authority no longer had legal responsibility, because it was clearly the right thing to do.
“I also see the government are putting up an extra £30million to help pay for the cost of finding a family for over 3,000 children and young people waiting to be adopted. Again, how right this is.
“I organised a summit in early 2013 with the government’s then adoption csar Martin Narey right here in Coventry to explore and learn how we could improve and speed up adoption rates.
“I am pleased the government are really championing this agenda.
“I would encourage all local authorities and adoption agencies to really step up to the mark and make this happen and make sure all our children have their ‘forever family’ to love and cherish them.
“After all, isn’t that what we want for all our children?”
For around the last five years, the number of children in care in Coventry and taken away from their families has remained stubbornly high – according to watchdog Ofsted – at around 600.
There has also been a dramatic rise in the number of children still with their families but assigned with a child protection plan because they are deemed to be ‘at risk’ of abuse or neglect.
The problems have contributed to Ofsted’s “inadequate” rating from Coventry council’s children’s services department.
Inspections had following the murder of four-year-old schoolboy Daniel Pelka, for whom the child protection agencies failing to act on warning signs.
Labour councillor Ed Ruane, children’s cabinet member, has been giving regular updates to Coventry City Council of progress on a wide-ranging action plan for improvement, which includes bolstering adoptions and fostering.