28/11/2012 09:44 GMT | Updated 28/01/2013 05:12 GMT

Much-needed Financial Support for Children Leaving Care

If we were to redesign the care system from scratch, there is so much about the current arrangements we would surely change.

When I speak to care leavers in particular they tell me about the need for stability that would allow them to make future plans.

For young people who grow up in care the transition into adulthood can often appear something of a cliff edge.

Whilst so many young adults know they have the support of a family to fall back on when finding their way in the world, for care leavers things are not so straightforward. Very often, from the age of 16, they are left to fend for themselves.

The challenges presented by this 'cliff edge' are enormous, from finding safe and affordable accommodation to making the right career decisions.

Often compounding these challenges is the lack of financial independence.

Last year, charities Action for Children and Barnardo's led the On Our Own Two Feet campaign; a push to get the government to address this very problem. I was proud to be part of this work and I'm delighted that tonight the children's minister, Edward Timpson, will launch a new savings scheme specifically for children in care.

The scheme will see The Share Foundation establish Junior Individual Savings Accounts (JISAs) for every young person whose been residing in care for over a year. With an initial £200 deposit from the department for education, further contributions will be sought from private donors. Over time, the JISAs will provide a level of financial support and independence for more than 55,000 teenagers leaving care.

Children in care are amongst the most disadvantaged and marginalised young people in the UK - and financial support is vital if care leavers are to have the same chances in life as other young people.

Evidence shows that care leavers disproportionately experience negative outcomes compared to other young people. Around one quarter of adults in prison have spent some time in care, whilst care leavers are over represented amongst those who are not in employment, education or training (NEET).

For young people in care, the transition to independent living is therefore a critical period. The challenges can be overwhelming as care leavers are forced to be independent much younger than their peers, with no family to support and guide them.

The new savings accounts will not only help care leavers build their own, independent, financial foundation but, crucially, offer children in care the same chance as any other young person to make plans for their future.