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Increase in foster children ‘staying put’ demands more funding for local authorities

Need for best practice to be shared – Fostering Network

The BBC reports that more young people are staying with their foster families beyond their 18th birthday.

The Staying Put provisions which came into force last year enable a young person's foster care placement to be extended beyond their 18th birthday. It is intended that Staying Put will enable young people to experience a transition from care to independence and adulthood that is similar to that which most young people experience, is based on need and not on age alone.

In response, Kevin Williams, chief executive of The Fostering Network, said:

"Before the legislation was introduced approximately 5 per cent of young people stayed with their foster carers under voluntary staying put arrangements. The pilot schemes to demonstrate the effectiveness of staying put, introduced under the previous Government, showed that around 25 per cent of young people stayed put when local authorities were supported to provide the option for them.

"While it is clearly good news for the 2,300 young adults who have benefited from the stability of staying put, and all changes of this kind take time to become embedded in practice, our concern is that local authorities are not being supported adequately with the implementation of staying put. Implementation is inconsistent meaning the potential impact of staying put is being limited. Anecdotally we are hearing of far too many instances where foster carers are not being supported sufficiently in caring for a young person post-17 and so the placement is forced to break down.

"Not every young person wishes to stay in their fostering placement after they turn 18, but for those who do we believe that they, and their foster carers, should be supported practically and financially to make it happen. If we want these figures to improve going forward, then it is vital that local authorities are encouraged and guided to ensure that best practice for the implementation of staying put is shared. The Government must also ensure financial support is provided so that foster carers aren't out of pocket for keeping their door open for a young person on their journey into adulthood. We would be pleased to see a recommended allowance to make sure that this doesn't happen.

"We know that allowing young people to 'stay put' can be good for them, and that investment at times of austerity in the lives of young people could have tremendous benefits for the state. Last year 41 per cent of care leavers were not in employment, education, or training, but by supporting a stable home post-17 for these young people, all of that could change and they can receive the opportunities that they deserve. For too long the headlines have been about over-representation of care leavers in the judicial system – staying put, and its proper implementation, is allowing young people to flourish, reach their potential, and expand their horizons.

"While The Fostering Network is very pleased that many young adults are now benefiting from staying put, and applaud the children's minister in England, and the Government in Westminster, for introducing staying put, we call on them to provide the support, best-practice guidance and finances so that even more young people can benefit from this remarkable change in the care system for many years to come."

The Local Government Association has called for more funding so that councils can facilitate Staying Put arrangements and meet the commitments already made to young people and carers.

The LGA has said that there is evidence to show that the programme has been significantly under-funded. The extra costs of administering the programme and finding new carers, who as a result of Staying Put are no longer available to foster new children and young people, have not been taken into account.