New documentary highlights experiences of young care leavers airs in Walsall

If you’re below the age of 25 and have a history of being in care, even for a brief period, you’re entitled to specific rights and benefits designed to support you in times of potential homelessness.

Am I a care leaver?

A care leaver refers to an individual who has experienced life within the care system, distanced from their family. Legally, you are considered a care leaver if, since turning 14, you were under the care of your local council for a minimum of 13 weeks and left care upon reaching or after your 16th birthday. The type and extent of support you are eligible to receive vary based on the duration you were in care and your age during that period.

For instance, if you were in care at any point after turning 16, you are likely eligible for support from social services until you reach the age of 25.

Risks of Homelessness for people leaving care

The link between care leavers and homelessness is a critical social issue, rooted in the unique vulnerabilities and challenges that care leavers face. Here’s how the two are interconnected:

Transitioning out of Care

– Lack of Support and Preparation: Although care leavers are legally entitled to support from social services until the age of 25 if they spent time in care after their 16th birthday, the transition from the care system to independent living can often be abrupt and poorly supported. Many care leavers may not receive adequate preparation for the complexities of managing their own housing, finances, and employment.

Economic Vulnerabilities

Financial Instability: Care leavers often face financial hardships due to difficulties in securing stable employment. The combination of limited work experience, potential educational setbacks, and the lack of a support network can make it challenging for them to achieve financial stability.

  Limited Housing Options: The economic vulnerabilities faced by care leavers can limit their housing options, making them more susceptible to homelessness. Affordable and supportive housing options are often scarce, and without stable income, care leavers may struggle to secure and maintain housing.

Social and Emotional Aspects

Lack of Support Network: Having spent significant time in the care system away from their family, care leavers may lack a robust support network. This absence of familial and social support can exacerbate feelings of isolation and the difficulties in navigating life’s challenges, increasing the risk of homelessness.

Emotional and Psychological Challenges: The care experience and the transition out of care can lead to emotional and psychological challenges, including trauma, which complicate a young person’s ability to adapt successfully to independent living and may lead to housing instability.

Policy and Structural Factors

Gaps in Services: While the law provides for support to care leavers up to the age of 25, inconsistencies in the quality, availability, and accessibility of support services can leave gaps that put care leavers at risk of homelessness. This includes variations in the provision of housing, education, and employment services.

Awareness and Utilisation of Support: Not all care leavers may be aware of their entitlements or may not fully utilise the support offered due to distrust, previous negative experiences with the system, or bureaucratic obstacles.

The transition from the care system to independent living is fraught with challenges that require a comprehensive and multifaceted support system to ensure that care leavers can establish stable, secure, and fulfilling lives. Improvement in housing, financial aid, emotional support, and career opportunities is essential to prevent homelessness among care leavers. Enhanced collaboration between government agencies, non-profits, and the community can provide the needed safety net for these young individuals transitioning out of care.

New Documentary Airs in Walsall

A compelling new documentary titled “It Takes a Village” debuted at a red carpet premiere event at the Light Cinema in Walsall on Tuesday, 20 February 2024. This film offers a deep dive into the complex narratives of young individuals transitioning out of Walsall’s social care system, shedding light on the significant hurdles they encounter along the way.

Produced by Open Lens Media, the documentary aims to captivate audiences with the powerful stories and challenges that young care leavers contend with daily. 

In Walsall, approximately 350 individuals have navigated the journey from living under council care to stepping into adulthood after turning 18 years old and no longer having that safety and support available to them.

Walsall Council, along with collaborative efforts from local police, healthcare, housing, and educational organisations, serve as Corporate Parents to these young individuals, undertaking the critical role of equipping them for adult life and ensuring their transition is as smooth and secure as possible.

The documentary’s production coincided with National Care Leavers’ Week in October 2023, spotlighting Zoe Morgan, Walsall Council’s Head of Service for Corporate Parenting and Leaving Care. In an enlightening twist, Morgan steps into the lives of care leavers, temporarily departing from her familiar surroundings to gain firsthand experience of the adversities these young people face. This bold move aims to foster a deeper understanding of their needs and how the council can enhance its services.

“ Working alongside young people to make this film has given me valuable insight into some of the issues faced by our care experienced young people and I feel privileged to have been a part of it.  I am immensely proud of the young people we work with and feel an even greater level of passion in my role to ensure that the support we offer is right for them.”  -Zoe Morgan, Head of Service for Corporate Parenting and Leaving Care, Walsall Council

The documentary also features valuable contributions from Transition and Leaving Care staff, separated migrant children, and young care leavers themselves. Significantly, the project embraced the voices of care leavers through a series of empowerment workshops curated by Open Lens Media. These sessions not only facilitated the documentary’s creation but also provided vital perspectives on how the care system can evolve for the better.

For more insights into this impactful documentary and Open Lens Media’s transformative work, visit