Italy – March 29 2018

Study on young people leaving alternative care aids major policy change in Italy

Italy’s government for the first time has established a fund for young people transitioning out of alternative care. SOS Children’s Villages Italy contributed to this positive development, advocating for and with young care leavers and providing results of a national study mapping the challenges faced by young people leaving care.

Each year, an estimated 3,000 young people in Italy leave alternative care and start living independently. Research suggests that care leavers often face discrimination in terms of access to further education, vocational training and decent work opportunities, compared with other young people. In addition, in a context where many young adults continue to live in their family homes while they pursue further education and start their careers, young people who grew up in residential or foster care are often left alone coping with the challenges of becoming independent young adults.

“In Italy, when young people reach 18, the age of majority, they are considered adults. In the case of young people in care, this often does not leave them the time to complete secondary school education with some security of continuous support from the state and the alternative care placement. They are then forced to choose between working and studying, which prevents them from accessing further studies and jobs that require a university degree and, above all, prevents them from choosing their own paths in life,” explains Francesca Letizia, Advocacy Advisor at SOS Children’s Villages Italy.

Research on young care leavers

The lack of relevant data adds to the challenge of ensuring adequate support for young care leavers. Insufficient statistical data make it more difficult for states and NGOs to monitor their situation and develop adequate policies and strategies to address their specific needs and circumstances.

“Ignoring these young people would mean not only missing out on their potential to become valuable contributing members of society, but it would also mean that the impact of the investment made in their care cannot be measured,” says Claudia Arisi, Advocacy Advisor at SOS Children’s Villages International.

“In Italy, the state invests an estimated €520 million annually in alternative care services. But then, when the children leave the care system, they are left alone, making it hard to obtain a return on the investment made,” explains Samantha Tedesco, Head of Programme and Advocacy at SOS Children’s Villages Italy.

To make the realities, challenges and needs of young people leaving alternative care more visible, SOS Children’s Villages Italy carried out a national study in 2017. The study mapped the issues, gaps and actors that could drive change for young people facing difficulties upon leaving care. This research is part of a global study analysing the situation of care leavers in 12 countries around the world, conducted by SOS Children’s Villages International with methodological advice of University College London.

The research includes interviews with young people who have grown up in alternative care and have experienced the challenges of transitioning to independence first-hand.

“Besides the need to collect more reliable data, the most interesting contributions to the research were those of care leavers. They highlighted that leaving care is not only a matter of housing or financial assistance – it is also about learning gradually how to deal with independence, being alone and having to struggle to find and keep a job,” says Ms Letizia.

Italy’s new fund for care leavers

The study findings were presented to the Italian government to highlight the need for action in favour of these vulnerable young people. The Italian government gave a response to care leavers by introducing a €15 million fund in the national budget for 2018-2020, which will be used to support 500 young care leavers up to the age of 21.

“This fund is an experimental measure taken by the Italian government for the next three years,” says Samantha Tedesco, Head of Programme and Advocacy at SOS Children’s Villages Italy and an Expert Member of the Italian National Observatory on Childhood and Adolescence. Italy’s President Sergio Mattarella “suggested we would start an Italian ‘Committee to support care leavers’ with a number of other partner associations, in order to make this fund permanent, and set specific measures to support care leavers as part of the welfare policies in our country,” Ms Tedesco explained.

Global report launch

The final global report, Decent work and social protection for young people leaving care, will be released on 5 April 2018 at a panel discussion on decent employment for young people at risk at the UN headquarters in New York.

It collects infromation from four regions of the world, detailing the ways in which young people with care backgrounds cope with the challenges of becoming self-reliant and are supported by the state and other actors in their path towards decent work and social inclusion.

Ultimately, the report aims to increase the knowledge and understanding of the needs and rights of young people ageing out of alternative care around the world, in order to inform strategies, policies and services to improve their life chances and outcomes through appropriate preparation for leaving care as well as after-care support.

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