So you want to… Staying Put
The foster carer’s perspective and advocating for your young person
Introduction to Staying Put
Foster carers recognise the importance of children staying put post 18yrs. All our looked after children should have this opportunity to level up their rights and equality with other children and young people around the UK.
In 2014 staying put was introduced after a long campaign led by the Fostering Network, it was hoped that this change in the law would assist and facilitate children to stay with their fostering families. However, there are still logistical and financial obstacles to staying put that have long needed addressing and campaigns continue.
This introduction aims to give you no-nonsense guidance and support to implement staying put within the existing framework for your young people, it is devised by experienced carers and includes lots of testimonials from carers themselves, it is from the foster carers’ perspective.
It highlights and looks at the common issues and how to address them, including one of the biggest and universally acknowledged stumbling blocks, foster carers allowances and fees.
What is Staying Put?
Staying put was introduced in 2014, launched by the Fostering Network at a conference in London attended by the then Children’s Minister Edward Timpson.
It meant that foster children in England have the right to stay with their foster families when they reach 18yrs if both young person and carer agree.
The law was changed to achieve this, in implementation of the Children and Families Act 2014, part 5 Welfare of Children (98) means that local authorities in England are required to facilitate, monitor and support staying put arrangements for fostered young people until they reach the age of 21.
Staying put is not the same as a foster placement, the young person is now a young adult and a ‘care leaver’, they are entitled to support and have their own personal advisor (PA).
The foster carer is no longer acting in the capacity of foster carer for that young adult, they are called their ‘former foster carer’ and the placement is called a ‘staying put arrangement’ and is not governed by the fostering services regulations.
The former foster carer offering a staying put arrangement may at the same time be offering foster placements to children who are looked after. Such placements will continue to be subject to provisions of the fostering services regulations. In this circumstance, the former relevant child will, as things stand, require a DBS check as they become a member of the fostering household.
What do the policies say?
- Your young person should have a ‘Pathway plan’ from the age of 16 which will discuss all their options, they will be assigned a personal advisor (PA) from the ‘leaving care team’, who will get to know them and will take over from their social worker when they turn 18yrs.
- Staying put will be discussed and decided upon, the PA and social worker should implement all they need to in order to get this approved.
- Once the young person turns 18 they will apply for housing benefit, universal credit and their PA will obtain a DBS for them.
- Your fee comes from the housing benefit and the young person giving you rent from their universal credit, many local authorities and providers will now top this amount up to varying degrees.
- The young person will have a new “contract” with you and needs to stay at home 4 nights a week, they do not have to tell you where they are, are given a key and are treated like an adult.
How does it work in reality, what are your options?
Most carers recognise that their children are not ready for total independence at 18yrs, much like birth children around the UK. Carers know how disruptive this move could be to young people who are settled, and how easily things can go wrong. They are not always ready with their independent skills, they often still need help and support with their physical and mental health and wellbeing, finances and budgeting for their day-to-day needs.
Foster carers know that their young people are in the place they are due to the skills, qualifications and experience, the ongoing love, stability and attachment provided by their fostering families. They will not receive that intensive ongoing and vital 24/7 support in alternative post 18 accommodation provisions. Foster carers know that without their love, support and expertise 24/7 things can quickly go wrong.
You need to decide whether staying put is possible or an option for you before the child’s social worker or PA (personal advisor: introduced as part of the ‘Pathway Plan’ at 16yrs) introduces it to your child, social workers must consult with you first, if it isn’t right for you, your family and other placements it is not a discussion that should be had with the young person.
You are often expected to take a large drop in fees, however, if being a carer is your main job this may not be possible, or acceptable. You should also not be made to feel guilty about this, local authorities are obligated to provide the child with the best option. The onus must be on the corporate parent to make the right decision for the young person. Nearly every other option is more expensive than you anyway. Never be afraid to discuss money.
Good providers will be open to discussions and want to work with you to facilitate the best outcome for the young person. Supported lodgings (increasingly few and far between) are just one of the alternative provisions. However, they are often now only being provided for 12 months in most areas, which means the young person will have to move again very quickly and this is very destabilising. Other provisions can include group homes/lodgings/flats/hostels depending on what’s in your area, many of these have no or minimum adult support or supervision.
“Independent” living can sound very tempting to a teenager but they soon discover it is not quite the dream they were expecting or was proposed to them and find themselves alone, unsupported, isolated and unable to look after themselves. Things can go wrong very quickly and it is well documented that some of our young people have suffered serious abuse and exploitation and have been targeted by some unscrupulous individuals in some of these provisions. Again, it is up to the corporate parent to make the right decisions for the young person during the pathway planning stage.
The time frame in which Staying Put is first introduced can vary, pathway planning is supposed to begin at 16yrs but this often may not happen for a variety of reasons. It may be that staying put discussions can start as late as a few months before they are 18. Good planning is essential, but should also not destabilise the child or cause issues within the foster placement.
The young person can not claim housing benefits and income support until they are 18, it can take as much as a couple of months to implement. As housing benefit is part of your fees within the in staying put framework, most carers can not afford to be without pay for that long if caring is their main job. Many providers will bridge this gap, but may not offer, so you have to ask and stand your ground. Many councils and agencies have their own staying put policies, especially more recently, where they top up the payments to more realistic amounts. Councils and agencies are more flexible than you think on staying put and interestingly the alternatives are mostly more expensive than foster carers full fees.
You can negotiate with your provider, there is a template in the FosterWiki members area to give you an example of how to work with your provider.
What foster carers say
There are quite a few quotes here, but important tips in them all:
- As soon as the pathway plan is initiated make sure nothing is discussed around staying put with the child until arrangements on how that would work for you and your child are in place between you and the local authority or agency.
- Money matters. Do not be led to believe the onus is on you to do the “right” thing at great detriment to your financial health. The onus is on the local authority, who is the corporate parent, to make the right decisions for the child. For a large number of modern carers, this is their job and in today’s socio-economic landscape very few can afford a huge pay cut. Stand your ground and do not be emotionally blackmailed.
- Be careful when you engage in staying put as you can often be de-registered as a foster carer and will have to go through the assessment process and panel again to be re-approved. If you have others under 18’s in the placement obviously you will stay registered as a foster carer, however, if the staying put is a single placement or all young people become staying put you could be de-registered. Therefore it is important to make sure you stay registered as a foster carer (if this is what you want) and get it in writing.
- Your young person has to have a DBS check to stay in the household, their Personal advisor (PA) is responsible for getting this done. The PA is also responsible for helping them apply for housing benefits and income support.
- Sometimes you will find it hard to get a foster placement alongside your staying-put young person as they are now classed as an adult especially if there are any issues, so if you are wishing to continue fostering make sure that there will be no bed blocking.
- Be wary of PA’s asking you to change the house rules or come up with a new “contract” for your young people. They do not suddenly change overnight on their 18th birthday, we should continue to gradually afford them a level of independence appropriate to their age and according to what feels right and safe for each young person, just as we would with our birth children. You may want to give them a key, they may already have one, however again this is a decision that is individual to each fostering family and young person.
- Do not be pressurised into anything that you know will not work or will de-stabilise the placement.
- If it’s part of your agreement that the young person pays you weekly rent then it is often a good idea to have this transferred at source, again each setting is unique and each young person is different. However, this can cause issues in the placement when young people spend the money and do not give you rent.
Staying put policies and legislation
See FosterWiki ‘Pathway Plan’
Article on new legislation on post 16 accommodation
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