Staying Put - the potential to be transformational

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Don’t Move Me was the successful campaign led by The Fostering Network to allow young people to stay with their foster carers until the age of 21. This came into law in England in 2014 (Staying Put), Scotland in 2015 (Continuing Care) and Wales in 2016 (When I Am Ready). This was already happening in Northern Ireland for young people in education, employment and training through the Going the Extra Mile scheme.

Despite the variety of names – what these schemes all have in common is that they provide much needed stability to some of the most vulnerable children in the UK. Prior to 2014, many children in foster care were required to leave their foster home aged just 17 – compare that to a young person outside of the care system, who on average left home at 24. Those foster children who were able to stay past their 18th birthday were the lucky few.

The impact of this legislation has the potential to be transformational - and implemented properly will reduce the long term negative outcomes for lots of children and young people who are care experienced.

An example of the positive impact staying put is having on individuals can be seen in a young person in the scheme, who was not thought to be ready to live independently at 18. They would have struggled to cope well with leaving school & home at the same time and needed ongoing support, even beyond their formal payments ending. This included carers acting as tenancy guarantors once they left their borough.

There are many young people in this situation, both in and out of the scheme, and this is when they need supporting the most; especially if they have no birth family for support.

Feedback - two years on

In England, two years has passed which is why The Fostering Network has set up a working group to look at the implementation of Staying Put. We have been hearing concerns from members about affordability – many foster carers are experiencing a significant drop in income once entering a staying put arrangement and fostering services are saying the funding is inadequate. Foster carers are also feeding back about patchy support and lack of information around staying put arrangements – concerns which are echoed by children and young people.

The Fostering Network is currently running two surveys for foster carers and children and young people to find out views about Staying Put in England. We will also shortly be putting out a survey for fostering services. The results will feed into the work of the group so we can look at resolving the issues that are preventing Staying Put being available to all young people who want it.

To end on a positive note, let us not forget that there are hundreds of young people aged 18 or older living with their foster carers who, up until a couple of years ago, would have been forced to leave; young people on the path to independence who now have the security and support from their fostering families for those extra few crucial years.

The Fostering Network would really like to hear about your experiences – positive or negative. Please email campaigns@fostering.net