In response to the release of an analysis of staying put so far by the Department for Education, Kevin Williams, chief executive of The Fostering Network, said:
“The Fostering Network led the campaign for children and young people to have the opportunity to stay with their foster carers beyond their 18th birthday, therefore we were delighted when the Government introduced the staying put legislation in 2014.
“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.”
For more information on The Fostering Network’s campaign to bring about staying put, please visit our website.