Thursday 24 March 2016
Staying Put is where a care leaver continues to live with their foster carer after their 18th birthday. Many Young People have already been Staying Put in the past, but the law changed in May 2014 making it a legal requirement for all Local Authorities to support these types of arrangements if they are in the interest of the Young Person and if the foster carer(s) and Young Person want it to happen.
This is a really positive for the Young Person as it means they have an opportunity to continue living with the people who have supported them as they have grown up. It means that Young People don’t have to leave until they are ready or until they are 21. This gives them an opportunity to get into or continue education and training. It also gives them time to work through issues associated with making the transition into adulthood.
Legally when a Young Person reaches 18 years of age they are no longer in care or a looked after child and fostering legislation no longer applies to them. The Young Person previously looked after and staying with their former foster carer becomes an “excluded Licensee” and the former foster carer becomes their landlord. The strict legal position does not mean that the Young Person is treated differently from a fostered child.
The law on Staying Put currently only applies to foster care and doesn’t apply to Young People in residential care, supported lodgings or other arrangements. Local Authorities are obliged to have a Staying Put policy that provides foster carers with information about what a Staying Put arrangement will mean to them. The policy should explain how the arrangement will impact on allowances provided by the authority and whether other funds (Housing Benefit/Funding for Home rents support) will help. It should also include details of practical support available.
When a Young Person reaches 16, their social worker will do needs assessment. This assessment will focus on the planning process for the Young Person leaving care. This needs assessment will help the Young Person, foster carer and social worker understand what has to be included in the Pathway Plan. As part of their assessment they must consider whether Staying Put is a possibility.
Staying Put must be discussed at the first Looked After Child review after a Young Person’s 16th birthday and what is decided should be recorded in the Pathway Plan. This will continue to be discussed at every Looked After Child review until the Young Person turns 18 in case any circumstances change. The Pathway Planning process should ensure that everyone knows what is going to happen once a Young Person reaches 18. The Local Authority have a duty to continue to support the Young Person once they turn 18 and a Personal Advisor (PA) will be assigned to support the Young Person from 18-21.
Sometimes it is not possible for a Young Person to Stay Put as they may not wish to remain with their carers after they are 18 (may wish to live independently, return to birth family, move to supported housing) or the foster carer may not feel able to offer this type of arrangement. It is very important the Young Person’s social worker discusses what alternatives there are as part of the Pathway Planning process. This should include details of practical support and financial arrangements in such situations.