Support until 21 for children leaving residential care to be tested

A new scheme that would support care leavers from children's homes until 21 is to be backed by government following a review into residential care

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Photo: Jurgen Eis/imageBroker/Rex Shuttershock

A new pilot scheme to help looked-after children who leave residential care will be trialled by the government.

Education secretary Nicky Morgan said that ‘Staying Close’, a scheme recommended by Sir Martin Narey’s review into residential care, published today, would be piloted by local authorities with government backing.

The scheme would guarantee support for children leaving residential homes for three years, up to the age of 21. It would mean young people living near their former children’s home would be able to visit it regularly and retain links with people who have cared for them, which would include retaining the support of a key worker from the home.

The policy is a residential care alternative to the ‘Staying Put’ policy rolled out by the government in 2014, which guarantees support for children in foster care until 21 if they choose to remain in their foster home.

Morgan said the move would mean “care leavers will no longer face life’s milestones alone – be it applying for university, getting a job or finding their first home”.

Affordable

A ‘Staying Close’ option for children leaving residential care was mentioned in a scoping report about the cost of extending leaving care provision published last year. Using this research, Narey estimated the cost could be almost £13 million over three years.

‘Staying Close’ was the “most affordable” option for care leavers put forward by the scoping report, Narey said. He recommended that, subject to testing the cost of the project through pilots, “I urge the government commit to introducing ‘Staying Close”.

A specific funding stream for innovative residential care will also be introduced as a result of Narey’s review, the government has said.

In a written statement to parliament, the minister for children and families, Edward Timpson, said part of the next £200 million round of innovation funding would be dedicated to using residential care “in a more dynamic and creative way to support those children who can benefit”.

Last resort

Narey’s report concluded that children’s homes are seen by many social work professionals “as places of last resort” and that their role is “misunderstood”.

“I think there may be scope for moving some children, who have previously not succeeded in fostering, from residential care and into a different sort of foster care. But there is a very real and unmet demand for the greater use of children’s homes as part of an initial assessment for older children when first coming into care, and for those on the edge of care,” Narey said.

As well as funding streams for innovative residential care and ‘Staying Close’, Narey recommended that a Residential Care Leadership Board should be established, and that “as many social work students as possible” have placement experience in children’s homes. This might mean more social workers pursue working in residential care, Narey said.

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4 Responses to Support until 21 for children leaving residential care to be tested

  1. Jody Forrester July 5, 2016 at 12:26 pm #

    I feel very strongly about this , working with young people in residential care , the stress and impact this has for young people aged 18 makes it very difficult to support their needs into transition when 9times out of ten they are not emotionally ready , to adapt I dependantly into society , there’s also the point of funding from social services and limited resources to meet their needs , this is what is genuanly called “set up to fail ” I feel it is very important that the primary carers they have built solid relationships with should be maintained in such an important time of their life

    • Vikki Pagett July 6, 2016 at 4:10 pm #

      Absolutely agree. As a Leaving Care Personal Advisor who takes over case responsibility at 18, we see the difficulties these young people experience transitioning into independence. They are placed in residential units for a good reason and are often our most vulnerable. They go from 24/7 support and numerous professional involvement to a Personal Advisor who sees them 8 weekly. Advisor’s case loads are so large it is near on impossible to offer the intensive support these young people require to make a successful transition. Support services in the community are also few and far between. The sooner they bring this in the better.

  2. Ed Nixon July 5, 2016 at 2:57 pm #

    Our campaign Every Child Leaving Care Matters has been calling for this since 2013. We appear like many care leavers of all ages to be invisible to social work media. Thankfully not to Sir Martin Narey who was gracious enough to consult with us thoroughly and totally respectful to our position. We have 11000 names on our petition calling for change yet little recognition not for us but for those we represent – for example in Portcullis House today where many more MPs called to see us despite all that is going on for them.
    We do wonder why Community Care has persistently refused to engage with or even reply to our communications. Surely a care leavers organisation such as ours is worth a reply?

  3. londonboy July 6, 2016 at 8:06 pm #

    As the parent of an autistic young man who became a looked after child Sir Martin Narery’s report is an interesting read with lots and lots on info I do not have the experience or expertise to comment on.
    In regard to the scale of unmet health needs I found this very telling.

    Secure Homes also achieve a range of health outcomes for children, including the diagnosing of their mental health issues. Instances of self-harm and risky behaviour reduce.

    – that left me speechless. Children in Care pretty much need to end up in secure institutions before they get anything approaching a diagnosis and related health support …