As a care experienced person who has started to transfer from looked after child accommodation to independence, I can say that the transition to find own accommodation is extremely hard and challenging for most care leavers that I have seen and even for myself now. As a care leaver who is transitioning from a look after child setting, a lot of us go into independent living or supported housing for a few months, before we can get our own accommodation sorted during the first few weeks of us turning eighteen.
For a lot of people who are not care experienced, finding their first home can be hard enough, but, this is easily rectified for a lot of people as they can stay at home with parents during the time of finding their first home, but for a lot of care leavers and care experienced people, as once being placed into the fostering system, a lot of parents who are to do with children in care, do not get back in contact. Due to this, the transitioning period for care leavers can be hard as there is not a lot of alternatives for us unlike people who are not in the system.
However, this is not the only issue that care experienced people have when becoming independent. For those of us who have been in the system, from an early age, a lot of the time, we are able to be taught from our foster carers the basics of being independent, from how to do our own laundry to paying our own rent and so forth, but from experience of someone who entered the system at a late age (16 years old), this was not the case. For me I was never taught these things, so when becoming independent when transferring to higher education, a lot of these tasks were all new for me, so I needed to find these out for myself, which unfortunately is the same for many care-experienced people also. Due to this, what I see a lot of when talking to friends who are care experienced and who are independent in their own accommodation, they have always said that they struggle being independent down to the fact that they were not taught any of this while being in foster care.
When being independent, the one thing that I have realised that is the hardest along with housing when being a care leaver, is the challenge of getting a guarantor to help when applying for private housing. As a lot of the time, local authorities help care leavers get housing through the housing register that they have, but a lot of the time, the housing register will not have housing suitable for the specific care leaver, so many of us go looking at private housing through letting agencies.
When doing this, I have realised that a lot of the time, many housing associations and property owners ask for a guarantor in case someone cannot pay rent. for care experienced people leaving foster care, this is not always accessible, as care leavers do not always have access to parents to help with this, so due to this we try to ask our local authority if they would act as a guarantor. Lucky for many care leavers who go into higher education and need to apply for student halls, this is something that the local authority can do, but for private accommodation for full time living, this is not something that they would do as I found out. (However, many local authorities are changing this as part of their local offer).
The reality of housing for care experienced people who are leaving foster care for the first time is dramatically harsh and bad, as a lot of us do not know what to do. Even though our personal advisors help us to set up our homes for the first time and they do support us to the best of their ability, it is the small things that care experienced people suffer with which in the long-term effects them dramatically and leads to more of us becoming homeless.
By Anonymous Care Experienced Blogger