New guidance which aims to provide a framework of best practice to assist all parties in the implementation of staying put is being launched at the charity's conference taking place today in Durham. Staying Put: Guidance for Children and Young People Services, Fostering Services and Leaving Care Services is based on the legislation, statutory guidance and standards that govern services for looked after children, care leavers and fostering services in England.
Staying put came into law as part of the Children and Families Act 2014, which introduced a new duty on local authorities in England to advise, assist and support fostered young people to stay with their foster families when they reach 18, if both parties agree. This change to the law was achieved after a long campaign led by The Fostering Network.
Since then, The Fostering Network has been closely monitoring the implementation of the duty and while the numbers of young people staying put with their foster families has increased year on year we have not seen the step change we were hoping for or that we believe is needed. There is still a range of cultural, financial and logistical obstacles getting in the way of making staying put a reality for all young people who want it.
As well as launching the guidance, The Fostering Network has identified a number of specific obstacles which require central government action and is calling for the following changes:
- The Westminster Government must ensure that staying put is properly costed and then fully funded.
- A minimum staying put allowance must be introduced, and no foster carer should be financially worse off because of agreeing to a staying put placement.
A reallocation of funds must be made so housing benefit is paid directly to the foster carer, without having to go via the young person.
Kevin Williams, chief executive of The Fostering Network, said: ‘The change to the law was one of the proudest moments in the charity’s 40 year history, and ensuring that it works properly for all fostered young people who want to stay with their foster families remains a solid commitment for the charity.
'We hope this guidance will help to address some of the implementation issues experienced by the sector. At its heart, the guidance is a plea for fostering services – local authority and independent – to accept and understand that staying put is the new “norm”, and to go above and beyond to make it happen. Just as over the past 15 years there has been a shift away from expecting children to leave care at 16, we now need a sector-wide understanding that fostered young people should be able to live at home until they are 21, and a determination to make this happen.’
The full guidance can be found here.