Financial support and learning and development for foster carers and staying put carers

This chapter forms part of our Staying Put Guidance.

The local authority will be required to evidence that each staying put arrangement meets ‘basic standards’. It is the local authority’s responsibility to provide (whether directly or through commissioned services) support to both the young person and to the former foster carers. This includes foster carers approved and supported by independent fostering providers. The levels of support to be provided should take account of the individual circumstances and needs.

Financial support

Section 23CZA(4) of the Children Act 1989 requires that local authority support to staying put carers must include financial support. The care leavers’ guidance clearly states that ‘local authorities should pay former foster carers an allowance that will cover all reasonable costs of supporting the care leaver to remain living with them’.This includes payments to independent fostering provider foster carers. The good practice guide identifies that ‘A good starting point for estimating the additional cost of supporting a young person through staying put will be the fostering allowance paid by the fostering service prior to the young person’s 18th birthday, because the statutory guidance for fostering services requires this to be set to cover the full cost of caring for them.’

Payments to former foster carers should be made through Section 23 of the Children Act 1989.

Guidance on financial support can be found in the good practice guide and the DFE/DWP/HMRC joint guidance and should be clearly outlined in the local authority’s staying put policy. The amount to be paid for a staying put arrangement will be determined by local policy but the level of support will be governed by individual needs and circumstances.

Financial advice and guidance should be considered as part of the care planning process as detailed in the section on planning a staying put arrangement. Young people and their carers will need to understand their entitlements and their responsibilities.

Information in respect of payments should be available in fostering service finance policies. Expectations regarding financial contributions from young people should be available in local authority care leavers policies.

There needs to be clear information available in respect of the potential loss of earnings that would arise from cessation of the payment of a fostering fee, and how this may impact on becoming a staying put carer.

The good practice guide advises that staying put carers will need to know the following:

  • the amount to be paid
  • when payments will cease
  • any arrangements for review of the level of payment
  • what the payment is intended to cover, and whether it includes a fee element as well as an allowance
  • whether additional discretionary payments can be made
  • if the young person is expected to make contributions and whether this will affect the level of payment
  • whether the carer’s allowance includes any payments which they are expected to make to the young person
  • what happens if the young person is temporarily away, such as at university or on holiday
  • what happens if the young person temporarily loses their entitlement to benefits through imposition of a sanction
  • how payments will affect benefit entitlement and tax liabilities, and where to get advice.

Recommendations for local authorities and fostering services:

  • We recommend that payments for staying put arrangements are set at a level which, after taking account of any contributions by the young person, ensure no detriment of allowances or fees to the former foster carer.
  • We recommend that all staying put payments are reviewed and published each year.

Learning and development

Fostering services should be explicit in their expectations of foster carers from the outset and staying put should be clearly referenced throughout a foster carer’s career, particularly for long-term foster carers. Foster carers need to understand what staying put means for them and any child/young person they are/will be caring for.

Recommendation for fostering services:

  • We recommend that all fostering services should incorporate staying put into the foster carers’ charter and into their learning and development programmes.

The change of role from foster carer to staying put carer is complex. Carers will require advice and guidance in understanding the changes this transition entails. Ongoing learning and development are crucial in a foster carer’s career and this should be a natural extension for those who become staying put carers. Planning to be a staying put carer is part of the foster carer’s journey – especially for foster carers providing long-term care – and we believe that training should be provided as good practice to help to prepare those carers who will care for young adults aged 18 to 21 and possibly beyond.

We recommend that essential learning and development opportunities for staying put carers should build on training completed to date as part of the continuous development a foster carer receives. Training and development opportunities should include:

  • preparation for staying put including record keeping, caring for a young adult
  • delegated authority
  • safer caring
  • relationships including family contacts
  • child sexual exploitation
  • mental health and wellbeing
  • drugs and alcohol – use and misuse
  • therapeutic life story work
  • preparation for independence including entitlements re welfare benefits, housing benefits and post-staying put contact
  • life skills
  • caring for a young adult – including legal considerations.

Learning and development opportunities should be made available that will enable the carer to manage their changed role, living with an ‘adult’ member of the household and opportunities that will help them to assist the young person develop the knowledge, skills and capabilities that they will need to take their place in society as an adult.

Support to staying put carers should include advice and guidance. This could be provided via their supervising social worker, therefore providing continuity to both the former foster carer and the young person; research findings show that continuity of care and of maintaining relationships greatly improves outcomes for care experienced young people.

Support services should include where possible peer support/support groups.  

If the carer retains their approval as a foster carer in addition to providing a staying put arrangement then they will be subject to the requirements of the Fostering Services (England) Regulations 2011 (as amended), even if they have no vacancies due to the staying put arrangement.