The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on care leavers’ well-being is a follow up to Coram Voice’s What makes life good? report published in 2020 about the views of care leavers on their well-being, using responses collected between 2017 and 2019 through the Your life beyond care survey. In this report, pre-pandemic data from 1,804 care leavers is compared to data from 2,476 care leavers who responded to the survey in the first year of the pandemic (2020-2021).
Care leavers aged 16 to 25 were asked the same questions at both time points: about where they lived, feeling safe, financial well-being, and their relationships with workers, emotional support, stress, loneliness and overall well-being,
The survey found that pre-pandemic, when compared to the general population, a higher proportion of care leavers experienced anxiety, felt lonely, struggled financially, had lower life satisfaction and lacked good friends.
Given the greater challenges care leavers faced during the pandemic, Coram Voice expected that their well-being could have deteriorated further. However, on most measures, few differences in care leavers’ well-being were found, with no significant change reported in levels of stress, anxiety, life satisfaction and loneliness experienced as a consequence of the pandemic.
Coram Voice’s own work and research from the University of Bedfordshire has shown that many local authorities put in place additional support for care leavers during this period. There were also national initiatives that supported care leavers including the uplift to Universal Credit and free laptops and internet access for care leavers. There appears to have been a greater focus on well-being and challenges that young people were experiencing during this period, which may have staved off a decline in well-being and accounted for some of these slight improvements.
One care leaver surveyed said: “The support given to me recently from social services has been phenomenal as due to Covid I lost my job and have been struggling to pay my bills ever since… I have little to no work and can’t claim universal credit, so without the help of social services I really don’t know what I would do!”
Linda Briheim-Crookall, Head of Policy and Practice Development at Coram Voice, said: “This report shows that challenging times do not inevitably lead to a decline in well-being for care leavers. Investment in support can start to chip away at the gap between care leavers and their peers. It is now all the more imperative that the gains made during the pandemic are not lost. We need to explore further and share the practice that makes care leavers’ lives better.
“We also need to recognise that many of the challenges that were there before the pandemic are still there and it continues to be imperative to address them. While the pandemic has highlighted the strengths of local authorities and practitioners in responding to the needs of care leavers in challenging times, the report also shows that local authorities and practitioners need to continue to be proactive in contacting care leavers and responding to their needs, offering financial and digital support and keeping in touch more frequently and in different ways in order to secure a long-term impact.”