Recent changes to the laws in England and Scotland mean that when a fostered young person reaches the age of 18 they can remain with their carer up to the age of 21. This will also soon be the case in Wales. In Northern Ireland, young people in education, training, and employment are also entitled to stay. At The Fostering Network, we have publications, resources and helplines and courses to help foster carers and their families understand the changes this can have on their lives.
Caring for a person aged 18+: the challenges
Once a young person reaches their 18th birthday, they are legally no longer a looked after child and their placement with a foster family can no longer be classed as a foster placement.
This is the case even if the young person is staying on with their carers for a few weeks or months – to finish their education, for example.
The most common arrangement used to be that when a young person became 18, the placement was converted from fostering to a supported lodgings arrangement. However, recent changes in the law have now superseded this.
As a result, local authorities in England and Scotland, and Wales from April 2016, have a duty to them to enable a fostered young person to remain living with their foster family when they reach the age of 18, if that is what they and their foster carers want.
In this way, stable family homes can be guaranteed at a crucial transitional period in the lives of some of the most vulnerable in our society.
These arrangements are known as Staying Put in England, When I’m Ready in Wales and Continuing Care in Scotland. In addition to this, Northern Ireland has its own arrangement for caring for a young person aged 18+ called Going the Extra Mile.
There are Care Leaver Covenants in place in both England and Scotland; although they have different objectives and remits, they are both aimed at improving the lives of care leavers.
In England, the Covenant is a promise made by private, public or voluntary organisations to provide support for care leavers aged 16-25 to help them live independently. The Covenant team works with these organisations to improve outcomes for care leavers across housing, health, employment and more, building tailored offers for care leavers, and works with local authorities and independent fostering providers to identify applicants and beneficiaries for these offers. The offers are outlined on the Care Leaver Covenant App, which is available via the English Covenant website.
In Scotland, the Covenant supports corporate parents to deliver changes in action and practice to bring improvement and consistency to the care of this group of young people, covering issues such as housing, education and employment. You can read the Covenant in full and see which corporate parents have signed up on the Scottish Covenant website.
How we can help foster carers
Watch our series of films on staying put and permanence in England, produced with the North West IFP forum.
We have also produced a When I am Ready film, on behalf of the Welsh Government, focusing on young people and looking at both carers’ and young people’s concerns.
Our online community