Since May 2014, fostered young people in England have the right 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.
A new duty on local authorities in England came into force on 13 May 2014, in part 5 Welfare of Children (98) of the Children and Families Act 2014.
This requires local authorities in England to facilitate, monitor and support staying put arrangements for fostered young people until they reach the age of 21, where this is what they and their foster carers want, unless the local authority considers that the staying put arrangement is not consistent with the welfare of the young person.
The Fostering Network has produced guidance which aims to provide a framework of best practice to assist all parties in the implementation of staying put. The Department for Education (DfE) has updated statutory guidance in line with the new duty. A Good Practice Guide for the sector has also been developed in conjunction with the Children's Partnership.
A staying put arrangement is not the same as a foster placement. The young person staying put, who must be a former relevant child, is no longer a looked after child. They are a young adult and a care leaver. They are entitled to support as a care leaver and will be allocated a personal advisor. The foster carer is no longer acting in the capacity of foster carer for that young adult; they are their ‘former foster carer’. The foster placement becomes a ‘staying put arrangement’ and is not governed by fostering services regulations.
The ‘former foster carer’ offering a staying put arrangement may at the same time be offering foster placements to children who are looked after. Such placements will continue to be subject to provisions of the fostering services regulations. In this circumstance, the former relevant child will, as things stand, require a DBS check as they become a member of the fostering household.
The DfE has updated its Planning Transition to Adulthood for Care Leavers guidance to include reference to Staying Put in Chapter 7. This will help local authorities and foster carers plan how to establish staying put arrangements. It also covers important areas such as the support foster carers might require, and advice and guidance that local authorities should provide to young people. The Fostering Network was closely involved in assisting with drafting its content.
The DfE’s allocations to individual local authorities to support staying put in 2015-16 are available online.
Staying Put Guidance
The Fostering Network has produced guidance which aims to provide a framework of best practice to assist all parties in the implementation of staying put. The guidance is based on the legislation, statutory guidance and standards that govern services for looked after children, care leavers and fostering services in England. We hope the guidance, which contains good practice case studies, will help to address some of the implementation issues experienced by the sector.
The guidance has been developed with the support of a working group of experts, and offers practice advice on how to implement staying put within the existing legislative framework. At its heart, this 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.
Independent fostering provider issues
There needs to be consideration given as to how local authorities and independent fostering providers (IFPs) work together with IFP foster carers who want to offer staying put arrangements to a young person they are fostering. The staying put arrangement is not a foster placement, so can be negotiated separately to the fostering agreements and contracts, although some frameworks are including reference to staying put within their tendering processes. However, the IFP needs to be fully involved in the negotiations as decisions made will have an impact on that carer’s availability and the assessment of their ongoing suitability to foster, as well as having financial implications for all involved.
Where an IFP has a continuing role in supporting foster carers who are providing a staying put placement it is not unreasonable for a fee for this support to be agreed. Commissioning frameworks need to take this issue on board.
The new inspection frameworks have strengthened the requirement on Ofsted to consider the services for young people who have left care. This means that staying put arrangements should be a focus for inspections.
Does DfE guidance set out requirements for the range and level of support?
DfE guidance does not set levels of support but describes the range of supports that need to be in place.
What are the implications for the payment of the leaving care grant?
Payment of the leaving care grant can be delayed until the young person leaves the placement.
What if the young person is going to university?
Placements can be kept open if the young person is going to university.
What will foster carers get paid?
Levels of financial support to former foster carers are agreed and specified within each local authority’s staying put policy.
If young people leave their staying put arrangements, are they able to return?
Young people who leave do not have a right to return, but this is covered in guidance, is permissible and is good practice.
Does a young person need to have been in the placement for a certain period of time in order to be eligible to stay put?
There is no requirement on the length of time a young person is placed with their foster carer before they are 18 in order that entitlement to staying put is established; in theory it could be one night.
How does a foster carer know what support, including financial support, will be offered so that they can make a decision about whether they can offer a staying put arrangement?
Local authorities are required to publicise levels of support to young adults and former foster carers in staying put arrangements so that foster carers can make decisions about whether they can offer this.
What steps do local authorities need to take to ensure young people and foster carers know their entitlements to stay put?
There will be amendments to care planning, IRO and sufficiency guidance, not just leaving care guidance, to ensure awareness and information about post-18 arrangements are known.
If the young person and foster carer want a staying put arrangement, does the local authority have to agree to it?
Guidance clarifies that it should only be in exceptional situations that local authorities should decide a placement is not in the young person’s best interest.
Are young people staying put be required and/or eligible to have DBS checks?
- If a foster carer wants to remain registered as a foster carer, the young person staying put will be subject to an enhanced check for DBS Children’s Barred List.
- If a foster carer is agreeing to a staying put placement for an adult who is not classed as vulnerable and they also do not want to remain a registered foster carer, then they do not need any type of DBS check to be carried out.
- If a foster carer is agreeing to a staying put placement for an adult who is classed as vulnerable where they are providing personal care, then they will be classed as a carer and will be subject to an enhanced check for DBS Adults’ Barred List.
- If a foster carer is agreeing to a staying put placement for an adult who is classed as vulnerable where they are providing personal care as a carer, and they are also remaining as a registered foster carer, then they will need a DBS check to cover both the DBS Adults’ Barred List and DBS Children’s Barred List.
Is the funding for staying put adequate?
When the Government introduces a new ‘burden’ on local authorities, the convention is that they give local authorities funding to meet this burden. The Government will usually agree with Local Government Association how much this will cost local government. We understand this happened in this case and that there was agreement regarding the sum of £40m to cover the first three years.
It is very difficult to assess the cost to local authorities as it depends on the numbers of young people staying put, the length of time they stay put and the level of financial support offered.
As part of our campaigning, we looked at the above variables, took into account the take up rates in the staying put pilot sites in England and the levels of allowance and fee paid to foster carers, and the take up rates and the length of time young people stay put in Northern Ireland. Given the above, The Fostering Network’s view is that the overall financial settlement between the Government and LGA is not unreasonable. If take-up of the option to stay put is greater than that experienced in the pilots and in Northern Ireland, there remains the possibility that the funding could prove to be inadequate.
In terms of opportunity and outcomes for care leavers, there is good reason and research evidence to support the belief that when significant numbers of young people are staying put, this will lead to increased stability, higher engagement in further and higher education and lower teenage pregnancy rates for young people in care. All of this promotes cost savings for local authorities in the long term. We are, however, a long way from achieving this.
These days, funding is only exceptionally ring fenced and usually goes into the general allocation of funding. Local authorities then have the freedom to decide for themselves how they will allocate spending. We know that local authorities are under enormous financial pressure and that, just because funding is allocated centrally, it does not mean all of this will find its way to fund staying put schemes.
For more information on staying put, organisational members of The Fostering Network can contact the practice support consultant in their region.
Our Staying Put: In Practice course is designed to help foster carers develop a greater understanding of the new arrangements and review current practice. Contact our training team to find out more.