Louise Roberts, Dawn Mannay, Alyson Rees, Hannah Bayfield, Cindy Corliss, Clive Diaz and Rachel Vaughan

Transitions to adulthood take place from different starting points and with differential access to available resources. For some young people this may be a time of choice and freedom, but many young people find that their agency is constrained by precarity in the labour market and shifting discourses of support and independence. Young people leaving care can be disadvantaged in these transitions as they are often required to manage multiple changes simultaneously, such as leaving education, leaving care, starting new education or employment, and living independently. Additionally, they may not have access to familial networks or a culture of parental dependence as a strategy for coping with risks in a precarious environment. Therefore, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought additional risks and stresses for young people leaving care. This study was commissioned by Voices from Care Cymru, and it sought to offer a platform for the experiences of 21 young people who had left or were leaving state care during the COVID-19 pandemic. The urgency to accommodate young people during the pandemic was discussed, which sometimes led to inappropriate placements such as this hostel for adults.

‘There are still a lot of people drinking in each other’s rooms… there was an incident where police got called cos three people claimed they had been spiked by a resident from an illegal substance… [an older women] was messaging me nasty things… It’s got to the point where I am just in my room all the time’ (Amy)

There were also examples of impacts on employment. Paul experienced COVID-19 symptoms and lost income as a result but had no wider support systems to draw on.

‘So obviously that impacted a lot on paying my rent and stuff like that. So it’s been a lot of stress then, stuck in on my own in a lot of debt. It’s stressful. I’m still in debt now’ (Paul)

These may be experiences shared by many young people who are transitioning to adulthood in the COVID-19 pandemic. However, for those leaving care, these challenges are accentuated and at the same time the necessary resources for security and support are more difficult to access – making already difficult transitions to adulthood ‘a massive struggle’. It should be the legislative right of young people to access leaving care services so they cannot be withdrawn in a crisis. For young people who have left care during COVID-19 funding is required to ward against further cumulative disadvantage in the longer-term.

Further information about this study

Roberts, L., Mannay, D., Rees, A., Bayfield, H., Corliss, C., Diaz, C. and Vaughan, R. 2021. ‘It’s been a massive struggle’: Exploring the experiences of young people leaving care during COVID-19. YOUNG. https://doi.org/10.1177/11033088211025949

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