Part Two – 18 and staying in care: Life for a foster child after Staying Put7 May, 2015
The most significant piece of legislation, for thousands of young people in care and their foster carers across the UK, was passed a year ago. It eliminated the requirement for young people to leave their foster homes at the age of eighteen, although this has not come without its challenges.
The aim of the Staying Put amendment was to give young people a stable and secure home as they take their first steps into independent adult life. The government was pressurised to finally eradicate the uncertainty and anxiety that young people faced when they were forced to leave their foster homes on or before their 18th birthdays. In 2013, the Government announced that from April 2014 care leavers could stay with their foster carers until they were 21 if they, and their carers, agreed. The new legislation also places a duty on Local Authorities to provide financial support for every young person who wishes to stay with their foster carers until the age of 21.
Since the enactment of the legislation, foster carers have expressed concerns over the challenges of offering the chance for young people to Stay Put. The loss of income is seen as a huge challenge for many. Local authorities must pay carers an allowance in order to cover the costs of the young adult living with them, although there are no particular national standards regarding the minimum allowance that carers are to receive with the Staying Put legislation. It is also unlikely that carers will receive a recognition fee aligned with their contribution and expertise in transitioning the young person to independence.
Deborah Southwick, Registered Manager for Staffordshire at Orange Grove Fostercare, said, “Staying Put works well within some local authorities where they have established their staying put policy, which includes continued participation with the fostering agency who is supporting the foster carers with continued fostering. Unfortunately, some carers are unable to offer continued foster placements when they agree to Staying Put as there is a lack of bedroom capacity within the home; we therefore lose a valuable resource of experienced foster carers until the young person moves to independence.
She continued, “It is a definite positive for young people who wish to remain in the household that many of them have grown up in from an early age, but not so positive for carers who want to continue to support the young people who live with them but also wish to offer their skills and expertise to other young people seeking foster placements.”
Although it is clear that all uncertainty has not been fully eradicated, the Government and local authorities must prioritise offering the opportunity of Staying Put to every young person who wishes to, and adequately supporting carers in order to allow them to offer the chance for their young people to Stay Put.