SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER
A Staying Put arrangement is where a young person who has been living in foster care remains in the former foster home after the age of 18.
AMENDMENTIn August 2016, information was added into Section 1, Introduction with regards to the Local Authority currently offers In-House Training to professionals and foster carers. The Local Authority has also devised information leaflets for professionals and young people and a procedural timeline is adhered to. Also, information was added into Section 6, Ending of Staying Put Arrangements - if the young person and the 'host' want to continue this arrangement post 21 – then they will be referred into the housing team to work on a private tenancy agreement prior to closure from the Local Authority.
A Staying Put arrangement is where a former relevant child, after ceasing to be looked after, remains in the former foster home where they were placed immediately before they ceased to be Looked After, beyond the age of 18.
It is the duty of the local authority:
- To monitor the Staying Put arrangement; and
- To provide advice, assistance and support to the Former Relevant child and the former foster parent with a view to maintaining the Staying Put arrangement (this must include financial support), until the child reaches the age of 21 (unless the local authority consider that the Staying Put arrangement is not consistent with the child's welfare).
Under the Care Leavers (England) Regulations 2010, Planning Transition into Adulthood for Care Leavers Guidance and Government Guidance Staying Put - Arrangements for Care Leavers Aged 18 and Above to Stay on With Their Former Foster Carers (2013), the Local Authority must provide information about extending foster placements post-18. The Local Authority currently offers In-House Training to professionals and foster carers. The Local Authority has also devised information leaflets for professionals and young people and a procedural timeline is adhered to.
The intention of Staying Put arrangements is to ensure that young people can remain with their former foster carers until they are prepared for adulthood, can experience a transition akin to their peers, avoid social exclusion and be more likely to avert a subsequent housing and tenancy breakdown.
(Note that the term 'arrangement' should be used rather than 'placement' - the term 'placement' denotes a situation where the local authority arranged and placed the child with a foster carer. Once the child reaches the age of eighteen and legal adulthood, the local authority is no longer making a placement, but facilitating a Staying Put arrangement for the young person).
The Staying Put Policy sets out detailed information on Staying Put arrangements, including the criteria for such arrangements. Consideration will need to be given to the impact on foster carers' approval and their terms of approval, including the numbers approved for, and whether this number includes the Staying Put young person.
For a young person living in foster care, the first Looked After Review following his or her 16th birthday should consider whether a Staying Put arrangement should be an option. This will entail assessing the implications for both the young person and the foster carer. The I.R.O. (Independent Reviewing Officer) will ask the Review re: Staying Put and a written note placed on that Review. If a referral is to go ahead to Staying Put further enquiries, then the leaving care team will then be notified.
If this has not already been done, the first Looked After Review following his or her 16th birthday should consider whether a Staying Put arrangement should be an option. This will entail assessing the implications for both the young person and the foster carer.
When carrying out an assessment of an eligible child's needs, the local authority must determine whether it would be appropriate to provide advice, assistance and support to facilitate a Staying Put arrangement. Where they determine that it would be appropriate, and where the child and the local authority foster parent wish to make a Staying Put arrangement, then the local authority must provide such advice, assistance and support to facilitate a Staying Put arrangement.
The young person's Pathway Plan (which will be continued in conjunction with the 'living together agreement' from age 18) should set out all of the practical arrangements regarding the young person remaining as a young adult in the Staying Put arrangement. Many of these will be an extension of the expectations on them when they were a foster child. This will cover arrangements such as:
- Preparation for adulthood and independence tasks;
- Finance, including young people having credit cards, loan agreements and mobile phone contracts registered at the address;
- Income and benefit claims;
- Friends and partners visiting and staying at the address;
- Staying away for nights/weekends and informing carers of movements;
- Education, training and employment activities;
- Health arrangements;
- Move-on arrangements;
- Issues related to younger foster care children in the placement, i.e. safeguarding, being a positive role model and time-keeping.
3. Legal Status and Safeguarding
Following the young person's 18th birthday, the legal basis on which they occupy the property (former foster home) changes (the legal term is that the young person becomes an 'excluded licensee' lodging in the home) - this should not denote that the young person will be treated differently than they were as a fostered child.
From the age of eighteen, young people are no longer legally 'in care' or Looked After and therefore fostering arrangements and legislation relating to children placed with foster carers no longer applies. While Fostering Regulations will no longer legally apply to these arrangements, key standards should continue to govern the expectations of the placement when the young person reaches 18.
This should include:
- A system for considering if a person's approval as a foster carer should be ended and for implementing the deregistration/termination process in circumstances where the foster carer is unlikely to be caring for any further foster children in the future;
- A system for reviewing and approving the Staying Put arrangement and carer/s to ensure that the arrangement complies with local authority expectations;
- Safeguarding and risk assessment checks on household members and in certain circumstances regular visitors;
- Health and safety requirements (as a minimum this should comply with landlord and licensee/tenant requirements);
- Regular supervision and support;
- Opportunities to attend appropriate training.
The Local Authority will need to assess individual circumstances and consider the appropriateness of all of these checks particularly where the young person is the only person placed/living with their carer/s and it is not envisaged that further children will be placed. In circumstances where it is clear that the carer will not be fostering any further children, it may be deemed appropriate to terminate their approval as a foster carer. In situations where it is possible that they may foster again in the future, it would be inappropriate to terminate their approval, given the length of time that re-approval would take. Where a foster carer's approval is terminated, it will be necessary to ensure that the Staying Put arrangement continues to meet appropriate standards.
Safeguarding arrangements will need to be sufficient, including disclosure and barring service checks on over 18 year olds and issues relating to fostered children in households. Where foster children are in placement, the foster carers will need to be returned to the fostering panel due to a change in circumstances as the child/young person Staying Put will have reached adulthood and become an adult member of the fostering household. As such, they will require a valid Disclosure and Barring Service check. To ensure that the check (and possible subsequent risk assessment) is completed by the child/young person's eighteenth birthday the process will need to commence in sufficient time.
4. Financial Implications
It will be necessary to consider:
- How extending placements will impact on the allowances provided by the Local Authority and whether other funding, e.g. funding for housing related support, will contribute to meeting Staying Put costs – central government funding;
- Any financial contributions from the young person from their wages, salary, benefits or educational allowances. Depending on their circumstances, young people who remain in a Staying Put arrangement may be able to claim means tested benefits for their personal needs from their eighteenth birthday;
- How the income tax, national insurance and welfare benefits situation of carers may be affected by post-18 payments. Where a young person continues to reside with their former foster carer after their eighteenth birthday on a non-commercial and familial basis, and the child was Looked After immediately prior to their eighteenth birthday, and the payments are made by the local authority to the carer under section 23C of the Children Act 1989 (continuing functions in respect of former relevant children), then the payments are disregarded in calculating the carers' entitlement to means tested benefits. When a commercial arrangement is made, (i.e. any element of the cost of the arrangement comes from a source other than section 23C), the non-section 23C element will be taken into account in the calculation of the carer's own means tested benefit claim;
- Insurance issues including liability and household insurance. Staying Put carers should be provided with information about liability insurance cover in situations where Staying Put young people may make an allegation against a foster child in placement, or against their Staying Put carer/s, or an allegation is made against the Staying Put young person. The majority of foster carers hold public liability insurance.
5. Interface with Adults Services
The Staying Put framework is aimed at former relevant children who require an extended period with their former foster carer/s due to delayed maturity, vulnerability and/or in order to complete their education or training. Where young people have an on-going cognitive disability and meet the adult services Fair Access to Care Services criteria (Putting People First), foster placements could be converted to Adult Placements/Shared Lives Arrangements when the child reaches their eighteenth birthday. This is important to ensure that both the young person and the carer have a formal regulatory and safeguarding framework that addresses their respective needs.
6. Ending of Staying Put Arrangements
The Staying Put arrangement extends until:
- The young person leaves the Staying Put arrangement;
- The young person reaches their twenty-first birthday;
- The young person completes a programme of education or training (which may extend beyond their twenty-first birthday);
- If the young person and the 'host' want to continue this arrangement post 21 – then they will be referred into the housing team to work on a private tenancy agreement prior to closure from the Local Authority.
Procedures should be agreed at the outset about how any wish by the carer to bring the arrangement to an end should be managed. An excluded licensee can be asked to leave the property by the Staying Put carer, who must give 'reasonable notice'. In extreme circumstances it may be considered reasonable for the carer to give very short notice and ask the young person to leave on the same day.