Government urged to help children stay in care post 18

As ministers launch a charter for care leavers, the Fostering Network says it is 'disappointed' no action has been taken to implement a programme that would help young people stay in care until 21

Picture credit: Rex Features

The government has been urged to provide more concrete backing for the Staying Put programme, which offers extended support for young people in care.

The call from the Fostering Network comes as children’s minister Edward Timpson demands local authorities do more to help young people leaving their care.

In a speech to the annual Care Leavers Conference today (Tuesday), Timpson will advocate more use of Staying Put, which enables young people to return to their foster families when they need to, until they turn 21.

However, funding for the programme has not been ring-fenced since the £4.5m pilot scheme ended in March 2011. The pilots ran from 2008 to 2011 in 11 local authorities, including Merton, North Tyneside, and York.

An evaluation of the programme, published in February, found it gave young people greater control over the timing of their transition from care to independence, and offered them the opportunity to experience transitions similar to those of their peers in the general population.

Across England, only 240 young people were covered by Staying Put in 2011-12, up 10 from the previous year.

“We are disappointed that no action has yet been taken to implement the findings as set out in the final report of the Staying Put pilot scheme,” said Robert Tapsfield, chief executive of the Fostering Network. 

“We would welcome the implementation of Staying Put, or a similar scheme, across the UK to help young people have the futures that they deserve.”

“The scheme showed that letting young people stay in care post-18 gave them a solid grounding towards the independence that they are often not yet ready to take on. Why should a vulnerable 18-year-old be thrust out into the world to stand alone when their peers have the support and stability of a family behind them?

Earlier this month the Welsh Government launched a consultation about a proposed scheme, called When I am Ready, which would help young people in Wales to stay with their foster carers beyond the age of 18.
 
Timpson was speaking after a new Charter for Care Leavers was launched by the government and the Care Leavers’ Foundation, to mark National Care Leavers’ Week (24-30 0ctober). The seven-point charter outlines what the government and local authorities should do to be good corporate parents, including listening to and supporting care leavers, and finding them a home.

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