Posted: 26 March 2018

Support for 16 and 17 year olds should be based on need not age

Our Seriously Awkward campaign puts a spotlight on the issue of vulnerable 16 and 17 year olds missing out on vital support.

Children’s Services have a duty to step in and provide support, but we know that for many 16 and 17 year olds support is too short term.

16 and 17 year olds are falling through the gaps

We speak to three practitioners working across the UK with teenagers in this age group to find out what they think about crumbling support for young people, why it’s seriously awkward and how they’re getting involved in the campaign.

Jane coordinates our Children’s Rights, Runaways and Substance Misuse services for Checkpoint Torbay.

‘We work with 16-17 year olds across all our services and we often have to challenge on their behalf to get the same level of service as younger children receive, this was one of the reasons I got involved with the Seriously Awkward campaign.’

At 16 and 17 young people are making important choices about what they want to do with their lives. Even with support, it’s hard for children to prepare to juggle new responsibilities such as housing, education, employment, budgeting and relationships. Alone, it’s almost impossible.

‘I was privileged to work with a young person involved in the campaign, who spoke about the barriers she faced in finding the right support after becoming a victim of CSE (child sexual exploitation) when she was just 16.

It’s harrowing stories like hers that demonstrate the vulnerability of this age group and the serious need to provide them with the right support.

Children’s services have a duty to step in and provide support for children who are experiencing serious difficulties in their lives.

But we know that for many 16 and 17 year olds, support is too short term, does not help them prepare for adulthood and can disappear overnight when they reach 18.

Our practitioners see the issues 16 and 17 year olds face

Sarah, the Service Manager of our Children at Risk of Exploitation (CARE) service, is concerned about the loss of help young people get when they turn 18:

‘By meeting a young person’s circumstances and vulnerabilities rather than their age, we can provide a safe nurturing environment to aid them to learn and understand these skills.

Social care closing cases at 18 for those who have been exploited is again focusing on the young person and what behaviours they ‘should’ or ‘shouldn’t’ exhibit at that age, rather than their vulnerabilities, or the impact and influence of a perpetrator.’

Shoshanna, a Youth Worker at our Pause Mental Health service echoes these thoughts and calls for cases to be assessed on risk not age:

‘I think that we need to focus less on the number and more on their personal circumstances; their vulnerabilities and risks. Their age does not necessarily dictate need, and although there needs to be ‘cut offs’ with services and certain provision, more fluidity would aide transitions into further support.’

How you can help

Right now, the Government is reviewing the support these vulnerable young people receive. It’s a perfect opportunity to give 16 and 17 year olds more help. 

Sign our letter to the Children’s Minister 


By Marita - Digital team

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