Two in three care leavers identified as having mental health needs are not receiving any help from a statutory service, a Barnardo’s study reveals.

Nearly half of England’s 26,340 care leavers may be suffering with mental health problems, the research suggests.

The findings were established through a review of 274 case files from two of the charity’s care leaver services. It found that one in four had faced a mental health crisis since leaving care.

Barnardo’s workers reported a number of cases where they were unable to access support for a young person despite incidents of self-harm and suicide attempts.


Callum, 21, received support from a Barnardo’s service after being in care. His dad died, he was bullied at school and was moved to a children’s home.

“I started to cut myself at the top of my legs to try and make myself feel better. It worked for like five seconds, then I was left feeling angry and upset again," Callum says.

"Then I started hearing voices in my head – I remember it clearly, voices telling me that I would die when I was 18. I was terrified. One day I decided I was going to end my life. I tried to hang myself but someone at the home burst into my room and cut me down. I was put on anti-depressants."

“If it wasn’t for Barnardo’s I know I wouldn’t be here now. I’d be locked up, homeless or dead. Barnardo’s helped me to build confidence in myself and that in turn helped my mental health.”

Government pressure

Barnardo’s is now calling on the Government to ensure some of the £1.4bn promised to improve children’s mental health is used to support vulnerable care leavers.

“Our research shows a shocking picture of care leavers in need with no access to suitable mental health support," said Barnardo’s Chief Executive, Javed Khan. 

"Young people who have been in care often experience poor mental health ranging from anxiety to serious problems following abuse or neglect."

"The Government must ensure these vulnerable young people receive the support they so desperately need when it honours its pledge to improve children’s mental health.”


The Samaritans can be reached 24 hours a day on 116 123.