Over recent months the media has paid particular attention to the fact that disadvantaged working class white boys are five times less likely to go to university than those from the most advantaged backgrounds. However, few seem to acknowledge that that only 5 per cent of young care leavers went to university last year.
Imagine you have been shortlisted for a job interview; it's the job you have set your heart on and one which potentially opens the door to your dream career. You have researched the company, re-read your CV, ironed your shirt and polished your shoes. Knowing that this could be a turning point, you would turn up for the interview, right?
The support that our country's most vulnerable children and young people get has been established with the best intentions, and is delivered by the huge, often selfless, efforts of professionals and carers. But when the whole system seems to miss the point, it's time for change. It's time for a care system designed to recognise the importance of emotional and mental health to the children and young people it is there for, all the way into adulthood.
We take so much for granted. At our grandson's first birthday party we meet some of our daughter's friends. Now parents themselves, they gather with their babies and toddlers, sharing stories about broken nights and nappies, first steps and playgroups. Our home fills with the laughter of children and the accompanying chat of watchful parents. As hosts, our role is to make sure there is plenty of food and drink, so we spend a frantic, if joyous, couple of hours on the go.
The world can feel like a scary place for any young person striding out on their own for the first time. Thrust into a world of greatly increased responsibility, the transition to adulthood is a challenging time. For most young people there is a support network to help them through this period. They fall back on the support of their family and friends; they learn and adapt. However, for young people leaving the care system this support is sadly often limited or non-existent. All too frequently they are left to fend for themselves without the necessary skills or even a suitable place to live.
I am awed by the inspirational carers who give a home to children who have often suffered so much and find the courage and empathy to give joy to young lives. The capacity to love, sheer generosity and genuine interest in caring for children that I have seen has given me hope that there are more people out there who care about those children who have no one.
Young people leaving care are one of the most vulnerable groups in society, more likely to become homeless, be unemployed and spend time in prison. Some will have been subject to abuse or neglect, and as vulnerable young adults they are likely to need someone to turn to, even after they have turned 18. It is time to end the misery of living alone too young for vulnerable youngsters, by giving every child in care the chance to 'stay put' until they're 21 - not just those in foster care.
All we know about Looked After Children tells us that stability of living arrangements is a key factor to achieve. With it comes the opportunity to experience those sharing pieces of life that make all the difference but which in our busy lives we speak of far too little, a feeling of belonging, development of trust, the acceptance that builds self-esteem and feeling understood.
Young people leaving care are one of the most vulnerable groups in society, more likely to become homeless, be unemployed and spend time in prison. Some will have been subject to abuse or neglect, and as vulnerable young adults they are likely to need someone to turn to, even after they have turned 18.
The Children and Families Bill reaches its report stage in Parliament next week. And with it comes the rare opportunity to make a real and lasting difference for young people in care in England, who too often find themselves having to live alone and with very little support by the time they reach 18.
The prospects for young people starting out in the world today are already bleak with nearly one million young people currently unemployed - and now life is about to get even harder for them. The reckless proposal to remove housing benefits from under-25s risks leaving some of this country's most vulnerable young people out in the cold. What makes this proposal particularly distasteful is that in reality only a mere eight per cent of total housing benefits are claimed by under-25s, making this a policy which risks causing long-term harm to the lives of young people for the sake of a few headlines.