One in four care leavers taking advantage of ‘Staying Put’ reforms

Local councils have warned that the Staying Put initiative have left them with a £13m funding shortfall

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Photo: Maya Kruchancova/Fotolia

One in four care leavers opted to stay with their foster families past their 18th birthdays in the year after government reforms required councils to offer extended support.

The ‘Staying Put’ reforms came into force in April 2014. The policy gave councils a legal requirement to support young people to remain with their foster families until they turn 21, if they wish to do so.

Figures released by the Department for Education show that 1,370 of 5,490 young people who left care last year remained with their former foster carers past 18. The DfE says that the total number of children helped by the ‘Staying Put’ reforms is now 2,300.

In 2010, there were 230 children who stayed with their foster family after their 18th birthday. However, this could be an underestimate as councils were not required to record the information until April 2014 when the reforms came into force.

Children’s minister Edward Timpson said supporting young people to remain with their family until they are ready to leave home gives them the same opportunities as their friends.

Funding shortfall

The ‘Staying Put’ initiative was launched with a £44m investment from government. However, local councils warned they faced a £13m funding shortfall in the first six months of implementing the policy and expect the gap to widen.

David Simmonds, deputy chairman of the Local Government Association, said that the government has “significantly underestimated” the cost to councils of supporting young people post-17.

“In the light of 40 per cent reductions to their budgets over the last Parliament, and a growing demand for children’s services, councils are having to make some difficult decisions about the services they can continue to offer. Any further unfunded pressures could threaten to impact on our ability to keep children safe and happy,” Simmonds said.

Foster carers not being supported

Kevin Williams, chief executive of The Fostering Network, also warned that foster carers are not being adequately supported with post-17 care for young people.

“Anecdotally we are hearing of far too many instances where foster carers are not being supported sufficiently in caring for a young person post-17 and so the placement is forced to break down,” Williams said.

Williams said the news was good for young people continuing to live with their foster families but urged the government to ensure financial support is provided so that foster carers aren’t “out of pocket” for keeping the door open to a young person.

2 Responses to One in four care leavers taking advantage of ‘Staying Put’ reforms

  1. Fiona Kingston August 24, 2015 at 10:38 am #

    The main problems with “staying put” is that the Local Authorities, in an attempt to justify the reduced income to foster carer’s, undertake work with the young person to encourage them to become young adults. They reinforce the fact that the young people are now “lodgers” with their own independent income and that they must have a key and no longer need to let their foster carer’s know where they are or who they are with. This is obviously attractive to young people who are at the age where they are spreading their wings and seeking independence from their foster parents but there is very little support to the foster carer’s to manage this transition. On one day, they are wholly responsible and accountable for every part of the young persons life but post – 18, they are expected to take a back seat and treat young people as independent adults. They find that their authority and boundaries are officially undermined and that they are expected to “stop caring”, something which is counter-intuitive to good foster parents and almost inevitably leads to a breakdown.

  2. Sylvia Mahal August 24, 2015 at 5:17 pm #

    I completely agree with Fiona Kingston. We had a young lady with us from 13 who was emotionally immature. When she turned 18 everything Fiona said happened. She could not not cope with the increased independence and having to look after herself. This resulted in the placement breaking down as she was never at home.

    It is very difficult because local authorities do not have enough money to support Staying Put. Foster carers are in a difficult position, they feel a responsibility to the young person. But often they cannot afford to keep a young person on at discounted rate, necessitating them to give notice to enable them to take another foster placement to make fostering financially viable.