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We would like to find out how a diverse group of young adult care leavers experience the transition from local authority care to independence. We aim to find ways to improve information, support, and services.


In this study we want to understand how a diverse group of young adult care leavers experience the transition from local authority care to independence.  We will use this learning to improve information, support, and services.


‘Care leavers’ are young people who were in the care of their Local Authority for 13 weeks or more after their 16th birthday. Nearly 12,000 young people leave the care system in England every year. Most (66%) having entered care due to abuse or neglect. An increasing proportion (25%) of care leavers are former unaccompanied asylum-seeking children. Care leavers are not a homogenous group and will have a variety of experiences while in and leaving care. Yet as a group, care leavers must transition to independence approximately seven years earlier than their peers in the general population. This means that many care leavers face problems adjusting to independence and can struggle with a range of social, emotional, and mental health challenges. It is important to understand care leavers’ experiences of transitioning to independence so that services can provide the right support to them during this time.


We are interviewing young care leavers, from a range of backgrounds, who can tell us about their experiences of transitioning from the care system to independence.  We want to know how care leavers experience this transition and what matters to them most when they prepare to leave care. We would also like ideas about how services and support can be improved.


This research will be used to produce a resource on This will form a record of young people’s experiences of leaving care.

The website will have extracts from young people’s interviews, giving examples of a diverse range of experiences, and what did and did not support them when adapting to independence. Young people preparing to leave care, caregivers, and leaving care services can find out what helped other young people when they faced similar challenges. We will also use this information to develop resources to support health and social care workers, and the people who train them. This will help staff to understand what matters to young people leaving care.



Full project title:

Exploring care leavers' transitions to independence: A qualitative study to be published on for prospective care leavers, educators, service providers and policy makers.

Length of project:

April 2023-November 2024


NIHR Research for Social Care, Research for Patient Benefit Programme. 


Project reference number:  NIHR204258

Total £302,654



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