Care leaver who became homeless says she was failed by the system

ITV Cymru  Wales
Jo Griffiths and Rhian Thomas, both from Carmarthenshire, felt let down by the lack of support after leaving the care system. Credit: ITV Cymru Wales

A care leaver who was homeless for three years after leaving the system is calling for more support to help young people rebuild their lives.

Rhian Thomas, from Carmarthenshire, lost access to a social worker at the age of 18, she felt unsupported and believes the current system needs to be reformed.

She told ITV Wales:  “We’ve always got a barrier, no matter where we are or what we’re doing.

“That’s what’s making it so hard for us to live our lives and move on, and to be able to thrive and not be failed by the system.”

The Welsh Government says it is planning during this Senedd term for young people leaving care to be assigned a personal advisor up to the age of 25.

One in three care-experienced young people become homeless in the first two years of leaving care according to research. Mental health difficulties and a lack of direction are also issues for young people as they try to transition to adulthood.

Jo Griffiths from Carmarthenshire spent much of her childhood in the care system but when she turned 18 she lost most of her support network and was placed in a hostel which she said was totally unsuitable for her.

Speaking to ITV Cymru Wales’s Sharp End programme, Jo said: “There were always drugs on the premises, there were violent people there.

"There was no mental health support and it got to a point where I basically made myself homeless.”

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The transition from childhood to adulthood is a complex time for any young person, but for those who have been through the care system, it often comes with additional challenges. 

Up to a quarter of looked after children in Wales are homeless by the age of 18 and 4 in 10 care leavers across the UK are not in education, employment or training by their early 20s.

Jo said: “Put yourself in our shoes. Think about how you would feel if this was you or your child. Just think about that and you’d realise how much damage you’re doing to us as young people when you close the door on us.”

The number of children in care in Wales has increased by nearly a quarter over the past decade and there are fears the situation could get worse as social services across the country face financial pressures and recruitment difficulties.

Harri Helvon-Hardy from Port Talbot is a former social worker who set up her own company, Fabric, to address what she saw a pressing need to offer care leavers stable accommodation and support.

She said: “The system is expecting significantly more off children who have had significantly less and is totally based on chronological age and isn’t taking into consideration where they are in developmental age.”

Harri Helvon-Hardy from Port Talbot is a former social worker who set up her own company, Fabric. Credit: ITV Cymru Wales

She added: “I feel that Wales is potentially going to get left behind if it doesn’t address in some way the standards in the sector.

You can have providers like Fabric which have team members in 24 hours a day, which have a specific trauma model in place, that are built on values of culture and love and actually really want to see change for the children and young people. But there are places where I wouldn’t leave my dog.”

She believes Wales needs to follow in England’s footsteps and introduce further regulation to ensure consistency and higher standards across the sector.

The Welsh Government says it wants to transform the care system and has introduced a Basic Income pilot which saw care leavers receive regular financial support, but the pilot will not be extended due to a lack of funding.

Deputy Minister for Social Services, Julie Morgan MS said: “We’re planning in this Senedd term to ensure everybody gets the support of a personal advisor up to the age of 25, not just young people who stay in education or training.

“We’ve got a whole group of things that we’re doing to transform the care service.”

You can catch up with Sharp End here.

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