Staying Put (Foster Care) Policy
SCOPE OF THIS POLICY
The procedures outlined in this document are applicable to all young people Looked After by Walsall Council if they are living with foster carers on their eighteenth birthday, whether that be Walsall Council carers, Connected Persons carers or Independent Fostering Agency (IFA) carers.
The policy also applies to Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children (UASC) who reach the age of 18. However, in circumstances where the young person is awaiting a 'Removal Notice', continued financial support must be reviewed on a case by case basis.
Young people who are in local authority or private residential placements are not covered by the Staying Put Policy.
AMENDMENTThis chapter was updated in September 2017. Additional details have been added on Staying Put arrangements.
1. Regulatory Framework
The Children and Young Persons Act 2008 and the Planning Transition to Adulthood for Care Leavers 2010 (Regulations and Guidance) require each local authority to have a Staying Put Policy to ensure that there is an emphasis was placed on a more graduated approach to planning transition to adulthood. This policy sets out arrangements whereby the authority will promote the extension of foster care placements beyond a young person's eighteenth birthday.
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).
Walsall Council is committed to preventing social exclusion amongst care leavers. This policy sets out the conditions required to extend a former fostering arrangement beyond a young person's eighteenth birthday. The transition to adulthood is complex and arrangements to stay put are designed to assist Looked After young people experience a transition similar to that of their to their peers, avoid social exclusion and be more likely to avert a subsequent housing and tenancy breakdown.
The policy is designed to ensure that young people do not experience sudden disruption to their living arrangements on their 18th birthday, that educational achievement and continuity are promoted, and that vulnerable young people make gradual transition from care to independence when the time is right for them.
The Staying Put Policy sets out the circumstances by which a former fostering arrangement may be extended beyond a young person's eighteenth birthday and provides guidance on the associated financial implications, the social care requirements associated with extending former fostering arrangements and the any resulting Income Tax, National Insurance and Welfare Benefit issues.
From the age of eighteen, young people are no longer legally 'in care' and therefore fostering arrangements no longer apply. Following a young person's eighteenth birthday, the legal basis on which they occupy their former foster carer's home changes and they become a tenant who is effectively lodging in the Staying Put carer's home. Whilst the term 'tenant' is a legal one, it should not denote that the young person will be treated differently.
The term Staying Put is used in accordance with Department for Education definitions to describe the arrangements made where a young person who has been Looked After, immediately prior to their eighteenth birthday (as an eligible child), continues to live with their former foster carers without a break in those arrangements.
Once a young person has reached the age of eighteen the legal basis on which they reside in their former foster home changes from foster child to adult member of the household. The associated change for the carer is from foster carer to landlord. 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.
This change must be carefully planned in order to ensure that both the young person and the carer understand the nature of the new arrangement.
The "Staying Put" arrangement is set out in the child/young person's Pathway Plan.The criteria for Staying Put arrangement may last for up to 3 years, or until the young person first leaves the the Staying Put arrangement, or the young person reaches their twenty-first birthday, if continuously, and still living in the arrangement or until the young person completes their agreed programme for education or training. This is to provide additional support in the areas of education and employment, to address specific vulnerabilities and to provide stability and continuity while these areas are addressed. For Staying Put arrangements to be considered, the young person must have been Looked After by and continue to reside with their former foster carers.
3.Staying Put Criteria
The primary aim of Staying Put is to promote a gradual transition from care to adulthood and independent living. It recognises that many young people in care experience delayed maturity, and that their 18th birthday may be an arbitrary and inappropriate point to leave foster care.
Therefore, the Staying Put policy is designed to ensure young people do not experience a sudden disruption to their living arrangements, that educational achievement and continuity is promoted and that 'vulnerable' young people can make a gradual transition from care to independence or to an Adult Service (where meeting relevant criteria).
Group One - Education
Young people can remain with their former foster carer/s in order that they can complete their education or training course for up to 2 years.
The criteria for this are that the education or training course is full time; that is to say the young person must be receiving 12 hours or more of guided learning, and that the extension applies to the course, or level of the course that the young person is undertaking on their eighteenth birthday. For example:
- If a young person is 18 in March and is undertaking a one year course that ends in that academic year, the extension would apply until the course is completed in the July of the same year (the academic year of their eighteenth birthday);
- If the young person is 18 in March and undertaking the first year of a two year course, the extension would apply until the July following their 19th birthday;
- If the young person is completing a level 1 GNVQ course on their 18th birthday, the extension runs until the completion of the level 1 GNVQ.
The extension will cease when the young person leaves a course or chooses to move to another course.
Where a young person completes A Level or equivalent courses in July and is commencing university the following September/October, the education extension will apply until the start of the course.
If the young person completes an A level or equivalent course in July but is not taking a university course, the education extension will apply for one month following the end of the course or one month following the A level result day. Should the young person require additional support, an extended transitional period must be requested and may be agreed. The report provided by the allocated worker should outline the reason why an extension is required, the plan in place to support moving on and the expected timeframe within which this will occur.
Where a young person has a diagnosed disability or learning disability which requires additional support to access and achieve in training, education or employment, there will need to be close liaison between Children's Services and Adult Services to secure effective transition plans. Where young people have a disability that meets the relevant criteria for Adult Services, the foster care placement should be converted to a Shared Lives/Adult Placement arrangement by the young person's 18th birthday. "Staying Put" arrangements for disabled young people are therefore a temporary arrangement and will continue until the foster/"Staying Put" carers are approved as Shared Lives/Adult Placement carers.
Where a young person wishes to live with their Staying Put carer while they attend a local university, a meeting must take place to clarify the funding arrangements which must then be agreed by the Head of Service. In principle these arrangements should become a supported lodgings placement.
A young person who goes away to university can also be supported to return to their carer's home during the holiday periods under the supported lodgings scheme.
Group Two - Vulnerability
A Vulnerable Adult (also referred to as an Adult at Risk) is:
"A person over 18 years of age who is or may be in need of community care services by reason of mental or other disability, or age or illness; and who is or may be unable to take care of him or herself, or unable to protect him or herself against significant harm or exploitation"
Young people can remain with their former foster carers for up to one year in accordance with criteria set out below.
- The young person is assessed as not yet mature enough and/or does not yet have the skills needed and/or is having significant difficulty in preparing for independence. However, they do not meet the criteria for adult services.
Group Three - Disability
Staying Put may be appropriate for young people who have a disability or learning disability and who are waiting for a tenancy with appropriate equipment, support or adaptation.
Group Four - Planned Move On
Young people who are actively bidding for a local authority or Registered Social Landlord housing tenancy can remain for up to 3 months beyond their eighteenth birthday or until their tenancy is allocated whichever is the shorter.
4. Pathway Planning for Staying Put
15½ to 17years
The planning to consider extending a placement under Staying Put criteria must be considered as part of the Pathway Planning processes by the social worker, foster carer and young person. This information should be provided as part of the information provided to the Statutory Review for discussion.
Planning should commence as the young person reaches 15½ years and an outcome determined by the time the young person has reached 17 years of age. Early consideration and planning is necessary in order that both the young person and their carer are clear about the plan post-eighteen and to ensure that young people are not left feeling uncertain about their future.
For those relevant young people entering the care system over the age of 16 years old, Staying Put will be considered at the four week Initial Review.
The Pathway Plan provided for the statutory review at age 16 should identify the timescale required for young people to move to independence and should be used as the framework for beginning to explore the following issues:
- Is it likely that the young person will fit the criteria for Staying Put when they reach their 18th birthday;
- Do the young person and the foster carer/s understand the criteria for and associated procedures for extending a placement under the Staying Put arrangements;
- Does the young person understand their financial and benefit responsibilities associated with remaining in a Staying Put arrangement;
- Does the foster carer/s understand the changes to their funding arrangements associated with a Staying Put arrangement and any consequent impact on their own benefit and taxation situation any impact on their status as a foster carer;
- What is the parallel plan for the young person should the Staying Put arrangement not be viable;
- Are the young person and their foster carer/s in agreement to a "Staying Put" arrangement?
- What is the parallel plan for the young person should the "Staying Put" arrangement not be viable?
- What are the preparation for independence tasks, goals and targets to be achieved during the last two years of foster care and when the placement becomes a "Staying Put" arrangement?
- Where relevant, what is the plan for converting the "Staying Put" arrangement into an Adult Placement (Shared Lives) where the young person has a disability and meets the criteria?
If the young person may meet the Vulnerability criteria for Staying Put then the Pathway Plan must address this and address all of the following if they apply:
- Moderate learning difficulties;
- Physical disabilities;
- Communication difficulties;
- Special educational needs;
- Risk taking behaviour, exploitation and self-harm;
- Mental health issues;
- Emotional and physical development;
- Substance misuse.
The Plan should focus on the level of the young person's vulnerability. The report requesting Staying Put must set out why the young person is considered to be vulnerable and what has been done to assist the young person in preparing for independence. This should include the development of the practical, relationship, emotional and resilience skills and how these will be enhanced by the young person remaining in a Staying Put situation. The report should also include explicit information regarding what further support will be provided to enable the young person to develop their independent living skills and to establish or maintain either a benefit claim or an education, training or employment activity. The report must also include the eventual moving on plan.
To ensure sufficient time is available to make the necessary planning arrangements for extending a placement beyond a young person's 18th birthday, a professionals meeting should take place as part of the Leaving Care Assessment of Need and prior to the young person's 16th birthday.
A planning meeting which must include the foster carer/s, the supervising social worker and leaving care social worker / Personal Adviser should establish the viability and likelihood of a Staying Put arrangement occurring. The meeting should address all the key tasks, roles and responsibilities relating to extending the foster placement into a Staying Put arrangement.The meeting should also explore the impact on the foster carers' financial circumstances should the placement/arrangement continue after the young person's 18th birthday.
Young people should not be included in the initial meeting and planning process, and should only be included after their foster carer/s have confirmed they are able to retain the young person under a "Staying Put" arrangement once the young person reaches the age of 18. This is required in order to ensure the stability of the placement and to avoid unsettling the young person.A report from the Social Worker requesting Staying Put must be made to the Group Manager, Corporate Parenting by the young person's 17th birthday The report should set out the grounds for the Staying Put arrangements as applicable to:
- Education - the type of course and the end date;
- Vulnerability - the level of vulnerability and 'move on' arrangements;
- Disability - transition arrangements to Adult Social Care and move on arrangements;
- A planned move on.
The report should also set out the cost of the Staying Put arrangement and clearly state:
- Who will assist the young person in making a benefit claim;
- When the arrangement is planned to end;
- Who will support ensuring a signed tenancy agreement is in place;
- Who has supported the foster carers in understanding any impact on their taxation, national insurance and/or benefit issues.
The Group Manager will inform the social worker of the of the decision with reasons.
Age 17 to 18 Years
In the event that Staying Put arrangements as the preferred plan are agreed by the Group Manager for Corporate Parenting, then the Review nearest the 17th birthday and the subsequent review immediately before the young person's 18th birthday should ensure that final arrangements and requirements are in place by the young person's 18th birthday. This must include referring to the Disclosure and Barring Scheme if there are other children in the household.
As young people in foster care mature they should not only receive their recommended level of pocket money but also some of their clothing and personal allowances. This should be gradually increased to encourage them to take more responsibility for their self care and eventual independence. Carers should ensure that the young person opens and manages a bank account to help them develop budgeting skills.
Staying Put - Living Together Arrangements
Young people, Staying Put carer/s, Personal Advisers and the supervising social worker should meet to develop a 'Living Together Agreement' prior to the young person's 18th birthday.
A "Staying Put" agreement meeting, (including foster carer, young person, social worker, supervising social worker and personal advisor) should be undertaken at the latest, 3 months prior to the young person's 18th birthday and should ensure that any final arrangements and requirements are in place.
The agreement should set out the expectations of all parties and clarify roles and responsibilities. The agreement should be incorporated into the young person's Pathway Plan. The agreement should cover:
- Preparation for independence tasks;
- Finance, including (but not exclusively) the contribution made by the young person to the Staying Put carer, credit cards, loan agreements and mobile phone contracts registered at that address;
- Income and benefit claims;
- Friends and partners visiting and staying at the address;
- Staying away for nights or weekends and informing carers of movements;
- Education, training and employment activities;
- Health arrangements;
- Move on arrangements;
- Issues related to younger foster care children in placement, safeguarding, role modelling and time keeping.
A Living Together Agreement should be completed and agreed, detailing roles and responsibilities and a support plan for the young person. The outcome of the meeting should be discussed at the young person's statutory review and their Independent Reviewing Officer.
All meetings should make reference to the reason for the "Staying Put" arrangement, practical requirements, any National Insurance, Income Tax and Welfare Benefits issues for the foster carer/s/"Staying Put" carer/s and Welfare Benefit issues for the young person.
The meeting should also confirm the financial support arrangements for the Staying Put carer via the Supervising Social Worker.
The agreed outcome of the meeting and a completed Living Together Agreement should then form the basis of a report presented to the Care Leaver Finance Panel prior to the young person's 18th birthday.
Once agreed by Panel, the "Staying Put" arrangement can last until the young person moves to their independent tenancy or reaches their 21st birthday (or until the education/training course being undertaken on their 21st birthday is completed). Monitoring of the arrangement is undertaken by the leaving care Personal Advisor and the "Staying Put" carers' supervising social worker or support worker.
Information to be presented to the Care Leaver Finance Panel
The following information should be presented to the Panel 3 months prior to the young person's 18th birthday:
- The Staying Put request standard template report should be completed by the young person's social worker including comments in support of the request and details of the financial support required (this also needs to include details of the financial support agreed if the arrangement is with an Independent Fostering Agency / IFA);
- In addition to the Panel template report, the young person's social worker must provide the completed Living Together Agreement. Information in the Living Together Agreement should include:
- Arrangements for supporting the young person to claim any benefits they are entitled to and who will assist them with this task;
- Arrangements for supporting and promoting education and training;
- Transition arrangements to an Adult Service and a Shared Lives Scheme if appropriate;
- The anticipated length of the "Staying Put" arrangement and any anticipated move-on arrangements;
- What preparation for independence tasks are to be undertaken and what improved life skills are anticipated by extending foster care as a "Staying Put" arrangement;
- What are the safeguarding arrangements for the young person, any foster children in placement and the children of the foster carers, has a DBS check been started or completed, is it anticipated that a risk assessment will be required.
Agreement for Staying Put by Care Leaver Finance Panel
The Panel will ratify and agree the arrangement, including the financial support for the Staying Put carer, to cover the potential 3 year period unless otherwise requested. If the arrangement ends prematurely or not to the timescale originally intended, then it is the responsibility of the Personal Advisor / Supervising Social Worker / Support Worker to inform their line manager and carer payments when the arrangement has ceased.
Age 18 Years
When a young person reaches the age of 18 they should be supported to make appropriate welfare benefit claims and Housing Benefit claim and supported in making the appropriate contribution to their Staying Put carer.
Where the young person is successful in claiming Housing Benefit, then the Personal Adviser must notify the Senior Finance Officer and the Placement and Resources Team in writing so that the appropriate deduction in the Staying Put payment can be made.
Young People at University
When a young person is in residence with former foster carers in the summer holidays, carers can receive a post - 18 allowance. However, this does not constitute a Staying Put arrangement.
5. Independent Fostering Agencies
Requests to extend placements for young people placed with Independent Fostering Agencies (IFA) under Staying Put arrangements will be considered against the same criteria as Walsall foster care placements (education, disability, vulnerability, planned move on).
Negotiations should commence with the IFA when the young person reaches 16 years of age regarding whether they will accept the Walsall Staying Put rate being paid after their 18th birthday.
Benefit maximisation should take place as with all Looked After young people. Housing Benefit should be claimed and the personal allowance element should cease at age 18.
6. Staying Put - Making it Work
While fostering regulations no longer formally apply when a young person reaches the age of 18, the Walsall arrangements for reviewing the Staying Put arrangements are:
- The supervising social worker will return to fostering panel; if the carers are continuing to care for younger fostered children then becoming a Staying Put carer will constitute a significant change in the circumstances of the carer's life;
- Yearly reviews and monitoring of carers, including health and safety checks;
- Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check every 3 years on all adult members of the household, regular visitors and children of the carers who are 18years or older;
- Regular supervision from the supervising social worker;
- Carer to attend required training.
Maintaining these standards is relatively straightforward when Staying Put carers/foster carers have placements of both under and over 18 years of age. In circumstances where Staying Put carers only have an over 18 year old young person then the individual circumstances of the carers need to be assessed, particularly where it is envisaged that no further foster children will be placed.
7. Young Person's Financial Arrangements
Young people who remain in a Staying Put arrangement can claim means-tested benefits for their personal needs from their 18th birthday. These replace the pocket money and clothing allowance previously contained in the foster carer's maintenance allowance. These benefits can be claimed regardless of the circumstances of the young person's former carers:
- Young people can claim Income Support under the 'Relevant Eligible' rules if they remain estranged from their family and are undertaking a full time education or training course; which is under the higher education level (over 12 hours);
- Lone parents can claim Income Support until their child is 5 years old. A range of other benefits are also available, including Child Tax Credits and Child Benefit from the birth of the child and Healthy Start Vouchers and a Sure Start Maternity Grant for the first child only;
- Disabled young people can claim Disability Living Allowance (if under 16) or Personal Independence Payment (if 16 or over and not already on DLA);
- A disabled young person in education who gets both Employment and Support Allowance and Disability Living Allowance or a Personal Independence Payment may also be eligible to claim the 16-19 year old Bursary. This is a non-means tested benefit and therefore has no impact on other benefits or the contribution that the young person or the local authority makes towards their rent. If the disability benefit is claimed, the "Staying Put" carer may be able to claim carer's allowance;
- Jobseekers Allowance where the young person is registered as unemployed and actively seeking employment.
Young people who remain in a Staying Put arrangement will be expected to make a contribution of up to 25% of their income to the household, whether that is earned income or benefits based. This will be in addition to the Staying Put Carer's allowance.
From the age of 18 young people who fall within the definition of former relevant children and who have a liability to pay rent can make a claim for Housing Benefit to help towards their rent.
The only exception will be where young people are living with Staying Put carers who are in receipt of a means tested benefit. In these circumstances young people will not be expected to claim Housing Benefit.
Where young people are successful in making a claim then the Personal Adviser will notify the Senior Finance Officer in the Children's Services Finance Team who will ensure that this amount is deducted from the Staying Put Carer's allowance and young people will be expected to use their Housing Benefit to make up the difference.
Housing Benefit cannot be paid to close relatives; therefore young people living with a Connected Person (sibling, parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, step relation or in laws) are not eligible to claim Housing Benefit.
Payments made from Children's Social Services to young people under Section 17, Section 20, Section 23, Section 24 or Section 31 do not count as income for benefit purposes.
8. Carer's Financial Arrangements
Staying Put describes the circumstances where a young person is over 18 years of age was fostered, is in education or training, has a disability, is vulnerable within the definition or awaiting appropriate accommodation and wishes to remain with their foster carers. When a young person reaches the age of 18 they are no longer Looked After. The legal basis for the arrangement going forward will be that of a tenant and landlord with the young person effectively lodging in the carer's home.
Staying Put carers are entitled to a Staying Put Carer's Allowance and carers will receive £232.00 per week. This covers accommodation, all utility costs, food and associated placement costs. The carers are not expected to provide the young person with a personal allowance.
Young people are expected to apply for Housing Benefit once they are 18 unless their Staying Put Carer is in receipt of a means tested benefit. If the claim is successful then this amount is deducted from the Staying Put Carer's Allowance and young people will be expected to use their Housing Benefit to make up the difference.
Carers are advised to seek independent tax advice about their income tax. However, it should be noted that when young people remain living with their former foster carers under a Staying Put arrangement, then the Income Tax and National Insurance framework and liabilities for foster carers have been extended to apply to former foster carers who are now Staying Put carers.