The number of care experienced young people in England who are benefiting from a piece of flagship legislation designed to enable them to stay living with their foster carers until the age of 21 is woefully low and simply not good enough.
Staying Put legislation was introduced in 2014 but our new report - Staying Put: An Unfulfilled Promise - published today, highlights that the poor implementation and inadequate funding from central Government, along with lack of appropriate support and planning at a local level, means that too few young people are taking advantage of the opportunities that the change in the law provides.
Staying Put: An Unfulfilled Promise is based on a survey of over 900 foster carers. Key findings of the survey include:
- 34 per cent of foster carers say that they have been prevented from having a Staying Put placement despite the fact they and the young person in their care wanted it to happen.
- The most common reason (44 per cent of cases) that young people do not stay put with their foster carers is because of local policies and/or payments.
Where a young person did not stay put, 24 per cent of foster carers say that this was because they could not afford the drop in income they would have experienced.
The report has been launched on the same day that new Department for Education figures show that the number of young people Staying Put with their foster families remains disappointingly low – almost half (45 per cent) of looked after children are leaving their foster families before or shortly after their 18th birthday, with four in 10 of those who do stay put leaving by the time they turn 19.
Chief Executive of The Fostering Network, Kevin Williams, said: ‘Staying Put had, and still has, the potential to change the lives of generations of young people leaving care for the better. It is great news that some young people have benefited from the new law, and we are delighted to hear the success stories, but the failure to implement this policy properly, by the Government, local authorities and fostering services, means that too many of these young people are continuing to miss out on stability and support after they turn 18. This is simply not good enough and is not what we campaigned for.
‘We are calling on Government to conduct a full review into the implementation of Staying Put as well as to introduce a minimum allowance. There is also an onus on the entire fostering community to ensure Staying Put is the norm. We need to embed Staying Put into every aspect of care planning from the earliest possible stage so that every young person has the opportunity to remain living with their former foster carer past 18.
‘The change to the law in 2014 was a huge step forward but, to give those leaving foster care the best possible life chances, Staying Put must be properly implemented and funded. The unfulfilled promise must become a reality.’
Foster carer Jane said: ‘There have been several times we wanted to offer a Staying Put arrangement to a young person we were fostering but haven’t been able to. Staying Put offers a reduced fee and allowance. As fostering is our main income and we only have one spare room, we could not afford to offer it to a care leaver.
‘It is a sad reality that most of the young people we have supported struggle for up to a year when they move from us and are in fact still emotionally and sometimes financially supported by us.’
Notes to editors
For more information or interviews please email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 020 7620 6441.
To read the full Staying Put: An Unfulfilled Promise visit www.thefosteringnetwork.org.uk/unfulfilled-promise
- Since the introduction of the Children and Families Act 2014 in England, fostered young people have had the right to stay with their foster family from the age of 18 until 21, should this be what they and their foster carers want. Prior to this the vast majority of fostered young people were expected to leave their foster home on or before their 18th birthday.
- As part of The Fostering Network’s State of the Nation survey carried out in the summer of 2018, we asked foster carers a range of questions relating to their experience of looking after a young person turning 18 in their care. 903 foster carers completed these questions.
- The latest Department for Education figures (released November 2018) show that in 2018 1,800 out of 3,310 care leavers in England aged 18, who were eligible for Staying Put, did so.
The DfE figures also show that in 2017 1,630 out of 3,170 care leavers in England aged 18, who were eligible for Staying Put, did so. This represents 51% of the total. (This figure had risen to 55 per cent in 2019) However by the time they had become 19 years old in 2018, there were only 970 out of 3,180 (31%) eligible young people left in Staying Put arrangements: 660 of these had now left their former foster home.
About The Fostering Network and our work
- The Fostering Network is the UK’s leading fostering charity. We are the essential network for fostering, bringing together everyone who is involved in the lives of fostered children.
- Over 65,000 children live with almost 55,000 foster families across the UK each day. An estimated 8,100 new foster families are needed across the UK during 2018 to provide stable, secure and loving homes for fostered children.