The Planning Transition to Adulthood for Care Leavers Regulations and Guidance 2010 and the Fostering Regulations and Guidance 2011 (Children Act 1989) both require local authorities to have a Staying Put policy. The Staying Put policy should set out the practical, financial, tax and benefit issues (for both the foster carer and the child) which impact on the decision to extend foster care as Staying Put care when a looked after child reaches the age of 18.
The Staying Put Guidance 2013 sets out the Department for Education, HM Revenue and Customs and the Department for Work and Pensions frameworks that local authorities must be aware of, and take account of, when developing a local Staying Put policy.
The guidance has been developed across all three departments (DfE, HMRC and DWP) and encompasses the three sets of requirements impacting on local authorities, foster carers and Staying Put carers and young people themselves.
The age of leaving home amongst the population as a whole is rising and the transition to adulthood is becoming increasingly complex. Children looked after often leave care to become independent before the age of 18. Research and evidence highlights that where children in care experience an extended transition more akin to their peers, outcomes improve and the experience is more normative.
Many local authorities already extend foster care placements beyond a child’s 18th birthday. These schemes and the Department for Education Staying Put pilots, which have explored the issues involved in the decision and practical arrangements required to extend a placement, have informed the Staying Put Guidance.
The work undertaken across DfE, HMRC and DWP to produce the Staying Put Guidance has enabled changes to be made within HMRC that has aligned the tax rules across foster carer and Staying Put carer.
Work with DWP has ensured that the local authority payments (Section 23) made to Staying Put carers are disregarded when calculating a carer’s entitlement to benefit. Other elements of the work, which have been included in the guidance, have been to clarify the complex benefit and tax rules in regard to Staying Put arrangements. The final element of the work and guidance has been to set out the different safeguarding frameworks in regard to Staying Put young people remaining in arrangements where foster children live, and in situations where the Staying Put young person is the only young person living with their Staying Put carer.
The primary aim of the Staying Put Guidance, and the requirement for local authorities to develop a local Staying Put policy, is to ensure arrangements are in place that can enable a young person’s foster care placement to be extended beyond their 18th birthday.
Staying Put will enable young people to experience a transition from care to independence and adulthood that is similar to that which most young people experience, is based on need and not on age alone.