Government allocates £7.4m to extend foster kids’ right to “Stay Put” until 21

Government allocates £7.4m to extend foster kids’ right to “Stay Put” until 21

The Department for Education (DfE) has introduced changes to its Planning Transition to Adulthood for Care Leavers guidance, within the Children and Families Act, allocating funding to local councils so that foster children may extend their right to stay up to the age of 21.

£7.4m of funding has been allocated for the period 2014/15 to cover 900 placements (which equates to £8,222 per young person) to be disseminated between local councils. Funding for the following two years will be announced in February 2015.

Reportedly the largest payouts have been received by Kent County Council (£265,272), Croydon (£171,588) and Manchester (£165,672). The lowest payouts have been received by North Lincolnshire (£4,931) and Rutland (£2,958).

Young people eligible for the Staying Put arrangement will not technically be in a foster care placement, but will be considered an adult and care leaver. The arrangement will not be governed by Foster Services Regulations but instead fall to local authorities in England, together with a requirement to facilitate, monitor and support Staying Put arrangements for fostered young people until they reach the age of 21.

Although the overall response to the Staying Put fund has been positive, some are concerned that allocations based on the original pilot scheme have underestimated the actual take-up from young people in foster care once the scheme is fully operational.

Chief executive of the Fostering Network, Robert Tapsfield, said: “The funding is based on the local councils reaching the levels of uptake that were achieved when this was piloted. However, the intention is that far more children stay on. If that can be achieved then the funding would be inadequate.”

Following selected local councils piloting the Staying Put scheme, the government used data to calculate the annual per-placement cost to social care, with the age extension, at £7,105. However, it later emerged that the £40m allocated for the next three years would only manage to cover £5,400 of the individuals placement costs. The original government draft was also shown to have only estimated providing extended support for 8,000 young people, not the 10,000 the government had previously pledged to support.

Mark Kerr, Phd researcher and assistant lecturer in social policy at the University of Kent at Canterbury, said: “I wholeheartedly support the spirit of Staying Put, but believe this is a missed opportunity to improve outcomes for all children in care. It is likely to only benefit a select few – those in stable placements whose carers can afford to lose the fostering allowance. In reality there will be very few who can, and it’s contrary to the drive to professionalise foster care: Professionals want to be paid.”