New Scottish Government legislation means every child in care will be entitled to additional support until they are 26 years old.
In the Falkirk Council area, young people in care currently get help until they are 21. But in many Scottish local authorities, children leaving care at 16 have to fend for themselves.
The Children and Young People Act was passed at Holyrood in February and became law on April 1. It ensures looked after children can stay in care until they are 21, no matter where they live, and receive additional support from organisations such as councils, the NHS and education bodies until they are 26.
Jenny Kane, team manager with Falkirk Council’s residential care and leaving care team, said: “The average Scot leaves home aged 26-28 and that’s why the legislation continues past 21.
“People not in care will receive emotional and financial support until then, so it’s only right that looked after children and young people do too.”
The act introduces corporate parenting, meaning public bodies have a legal obligation to provide the best standard of care for youngsters in care.
Mercy Morrison (26) lives in Carronshore and was taken into care with her brother when she was 10. While Mercy says she had a positive experience of being in care, with excellent foster parents that she calls mum and dad today, she appreciates not all young people are so lucky.
Now working with Falkirk Council’s finance department, she said: “My foster parents were very supportive and I stayed with them for 11 years until I got my own tenancy at 21. But many kids stay in multiple houses and never really have a home. They leave care at 18 and get a place to live, but they aren’t ready for that move and there is no support to help - there are no parents to help if they’re short of rent money, or to ask for advice on how to budget.
“The new legislation is a vast improvement and means people in care get more of a chance making a good life for themselves.”
Mercy wanted to go to university after leaving school, but was unable to because she would have had nowhere to go in the summer holidays when the student accommodation closed.
The new legislation includes university and college bodies and means they have to make provision for the situations care leavers face.
Mercy said: “Now a few universities offer all-year-round student accommodation for people who don’t have a family home where they can spend holidays and soon they will all offer this sort of provision. It’s going to make a difference.”
Mercy was selected to speak to the Scottish Parliament and other governing bodies as part of the Who Cares? Scotland team.
The charity helped create the legislation and spoke to influential people to get them behind the campaign.
Viviene Thomson has worked in care services for over more than years. The Children and Young People Service manager said the act is one of the biggest changes that she has seen.
She said: “The corporate parent status is of particular importance. It gives parental responsibility to public bodies like the council, NHS and education providers. It means they have to ask themselves ‘would this be good enough for my child’ and if not, make improvements.
“It’s a fantastic piece of legislation and will make a big difference to young people in care.”