All looked-after children should have right to stay in care until 21, MPs recommend

No young adults should be forced to leave care before 21 and only be provided with regulated accommodation, says education committee

birthday cake
Picture credit: Best Shot Factory/Rex Features

All looked-after young people should have the right to stay in care until they are 21, while using bed and breakfast accommodation to house care leavers should be banned.

These are two of the recommendations made by the education committee, which today published a report – “Into Independence: Not Out of Care” – on the options for looked-after young people aged 16 and over.

Recommendations

Leaving care services to be extended to 25, without exception.

Outright ban on using B&Bs as temporary accommodation for young people in care.

Strengthened requirement for local authorities to commission enough alternative emergency facilities.

Extending Staying Put policy to include young people living in residential children’s homes.

Examine Staying Close models (for young care leavers at 16 and 17 to retain physical proximity, professional support and valued connections with staff and friends) and issue best practice guidelines on a model of Staying Close.

Ensure young people approaching independence are fully informed of their rights and entitlements and are given a genuine choice of accommodation.

Clearer guidance for councils to consider carers and professionals with whom a young person has established relationships with as a Personal Adviser.

Department for Education to issue explicit guidance on young people’s right to stay in ‘other arrangements’ until they are 21.

If enforced, the MPs’ recommendations would mean no young adults were forced to leave care before they turn 21 and only be provided with regulated accommodation.

This would extend the current ‘Staying Put’ policy to young people living in children’s homes, rather than applying to just those in foster care.

“Young people living in residential care homes are often the most vulnerable and should have the right to remain there beyond the age of 18,” the report stated.

Committee chair Graham Stuart said: “Looked-after young people moving towards adulthood deserve a well-supported transition to independence, rather than an abrupt push out of care.”

The report sets out steps the government must take if ministers are to improve care options for young people over 16, and urged the Department for Education (DfE) to “urgently” consult with councils to arrange a suitable time frame for an outright ban on B&Bs.

Natasha Finlayson, chief executive of the Who Cares? Trust, said: “This is a brave and important report from the education committee, which gets to the heart of what it means for the state to act as a parent to these young people.

“We have a moral duty to make sure that young people in care, living in semi-independent or independent housing, have accommodation that is safe, secure, properly regulated, and that they get the level of help and support they need.”

However, Cllr David Simmonds, chair of the Local Government Association’s Children and Young People Board, reacted more cautiously to the report’s proposals, saying more regulation is “no guarantee of quality”. 

He drew particular attention to the proposed ban on B&B placements, saying “we must be careful to ensure that any ban on the use of B&Bs does not leave vulnerable young people effectively homeless due to a lack of temporary accommodation”.

Simmonds also took the opportunity to champion and defend the work local authorities are currently doing to improve care services for over 16s.

He said: “The DfE’s Innovation Programme has a particular focus on care options for adolescents, and several councils are already developing innovative proposals to tackle this issue locally.

“Councils across the country will be keen to learn from the experiences of these trailblazers, and it is important that these projects are given the time and space to develop before existing provision is removed whole-scale.”

More from Community Care

4 Responses to All looked-after children should have right to stay in care until 21, MPs recommend

  1. Concerned Foster Mother July 18, 2014 at 11:00 am #

    Transition to independence is occurring in my home as this is happening. Staying Put does not support young people as promised as the finances were totally overlooked. This has led to young people asking “but why cant I stay”? LA are telling carers to take a much reduced package to have the young person stay. Give me a decent salary and I can do this but reducing the finance puts me in the horrid position of having to say no as a single carer. The bottom line is that Carers need an income just like any person. The difference is that they love what they do. LA’s use this to push costs down. My young people are not ready but because of behaviour issues and needing to protect them and my home from damage I can not go out to work. I could get a job very easily to help finance them staying but then they cant stay because of protection issues. I am fighting for change but it is a lonely fight. Yes I can have other young people easily so its not about continuing to foster it is about my concern that the young people I have are definitely not ready to leave home and have no-one to go onto besides a personal advisor!

  2. Andrew July 18, 2014 at 11:23 am #

    While i understand the need to support and care for young people, as someone who works in a children’s home i feel that this move would be counter productive. It would mean that children of a young age would be living with relatively older young people who may have a negative impact as they would be dealing with adult issues younger children should not be exposed to. This would also mean that the age of carers would increase as younger carers or residential staff would not be able to be corporate parents. There are a multitude of issues which sadly out way the benefits. Andrew

  3. Chris Sterry July 18, 2014 at 11:58 am #

    This is an improvement, but is it far enough. For children that are still in touch with a parent, in most cases this parent is for and with them for the life of that parent, whether the children are still at home or have gone to find their own independence. Parental responsibility is for life, even if not legally required to be.

    For children, who have no parent to respond to they are vulnerable to life forces and so up to 18 there are areas to provide this facility, whether it is good or bad, it is there. But after 18 or the proposed 21, there is no one and these adult children are still vulnerable, whether they feel so or not.

    Independence is good, but should there not be a fall back for all.

  4. jacki July 18, 2014 at 1:20 pm #

    Young people these days are staying at home because the cost of living is too much for them. Young people in care are no different. They need the support of adults who can help them, and enable them to develop strong foundations for their future, whether that be to go to university, or to develop in their career. Young people who have had traumatic times need a lot more support, so 21 years sounds about right, just! I would still advocate for 25 years. And, LA’s to provide CQC monitored, full supported living accommodation for them so when they move out eventually they are well grounded, able to cope, and near adulthood.