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’, a leading charity is warning in a new report published today (Thursday 15 November).
Staying Put legislation was introduced in 2014, yet the report published by The Fostering Network claims 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.’