View Wirral LSCB Procedures Manual View Wirral LSCB Procedures Manual

5.7.6 Staying Put Policy

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

This chapter details the criteria and process which enables a young person to remain with their (former) foster parent up to the age of 21. The Policy has recently been enhanced through the Care Leavers (England) Regulations 2010, Planning Transition into Adulthood for Care Leavers Guidance and Government Staying Put Guidance (2013) and the Children and Family Act 2014.

RELATED GUIDANCE

The Children Act 1989 Guidance and Regulations Volume 3: Planning Transition to Adulthood for Care Leavers (January 2015)

Staying Put: Arrangements for Care Leavers Aged 18 and Above to Stay on with Their Former Foster Carers (HM Government, May 2013)

AMENDMENT

In March 2015, this chapter was amended throughout and should be re-read in full. Additionally, The Children Act 1989 Guidance and Regulations January 2015 update was added above in Related Guidance.


Contents

  1. Introduction 
  2. Planning
  3. Fostering and ‘Staying Put’ Regulatory Frameworks    
  4. Benefits for Young People 


1. Introduction

The Green Paper "Care Matters: Transforming the Lives of Children in Care" and the White Paper "Care Matters: Time for Change" refer to the importance of young people 'entering adult life at the right time'. The Care Matters white paper contained a significant focus on improving the support for young people who are preparing for adulthood and making it possible for them to remain with their Foster Carers.

Many young people who have been Looked After by the local authority experience a compressed transition from childhood to adulthood, (Professor Mike Stein - University of York) and the option to ‘stay put’ seeks to protract and normalise the young person's experience of moving into adulthood. ‘Staying Put’ fits within Wirral’s aspiration to be a good Corporate Parent to all young people to whom it has acted as a substitute family.

To meet the commitments in the White Paper and the duties towards care leavers in the Children and Young Persons Act 2008, the Care Leavers (England) Regulations 2010, Planning Transition into Adulthood for Care Leavers Guidance and Government Staying Put Guidance (2013) and the Children and Families Act 2014, Wirral Council are establishing a more graduated approach to planning transition to adulthood by supporting ‘Staying Put’ arrangements.

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 Staying Put Guidance (2013), the Local Authority must provide information about extending placements beyond the age of 18. 

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.)

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.

Aims

The aims of a ‘Staying Put’ arrangement are to:

  • Enable young people to build on and nurture their attachments to their carers, so that they can move to independence at their own pace and be supported to make the transition to adulthood in a more gradual way - just like other young people who can rely on their own families for this support;
  • Provide the stability and support necessary for young people to achieve in education, training and employment;
  • Give weight to young people’s views about the timing of moves to greater independence from their final care placement.

Objectives

‘Staying Put’ arrangements meet the objectives identified within the Children Act 1989 and the Children (Leaving Care) Act 2000 which are to improve the life chances of young people in and leaving local authority care and promotes the Acts main aims to:

  • Allow young people to stay in a placement until they are ready and prepared to move on;
  • Improve the assessment, preparation and planning for leaving care;
  • Provide better personal support for young people after leaving care;
  • Improve the financial arrangements for care leavers.

‘Staying Put’ arrangements support Wirral’s Children and Young People’s Plan and in particular gives young people who are in stable, supportive placements the opportunity to pursue education, training and employment in order to participate both socially and economically as citizens, without the disruption of having to move into 'independence' during this critical period of their lives.

Criteria for Continuing a Fostering Placement as a ‘Staying Put’ Arrangement Once the Young Person Reaches 18

  • A young person who was looked after immediately prior to their eighteenth birthday (as an eligible child) continues to reside with their former Foster Carer(s);
  • The carers who were acting as Foster Carer’s to the young person immediately prior to their eighteenth birthday and the young person had been placed with them by the local authority or via an Independent Fostering Agency;
  • A young person is deemed an Eligible child immediately before he/ she reached eighteen;
  • The ‘Staying Put’ arrangement is set out in the child/ young person’s Pathway Plan;
  • A proportion of the allowance paid to the ‘Staying Put’ carer(s) is paid by the Local Authority;
  • The ‘Staying Put’ arrangement extends until:
    • The young person leaves the ‘Staying Put’ arrangement;
    • The young person reaches their twenty first birthday, if continuously, and still living in the arrangement;
    • The young person completes the agreed programme of education or training being undertaken on their twenty first birthday, if continuously living in the arrangement since their eighteenth birthday.


2. Planning

Early planning for ‘Staying Put’ arrangements should be considered as part of the Care Planning process from the time that a long term foster placement is planned. Decisions about whether or not ‘staying put’ is an option should be taken as early as possible in the placement and written in the young person’s Pathway Plan.

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.

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 'Staying Put' Agreement 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. Fostering and ‘Staying Put’ Regulatory Frameworks

Where Foster Children are Living in the “Staying Put” Arrangement

Where fostered children are living in the “Staying Put” arrangement/household the checks and requirements associated with fostering legislation will remain as a prerequisite and will therefore provide a framework for safeguarding and checking arrangements for the whole household.

In these situations the carer must remain an approved Foster Carer and the Fostering Services (England) Regulations and Guidance 2011 will apply with the consequential requirements of supervision, review and safeguarding. Whilst the fostering legislation will primarily apply to the placements of the fostered children/children looked after, it does ensure a system of approval, checking and supervision is applied to the whole household.

Additionally, 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.

It should also be noted that young people remaining in a foster care household at the age of eighteen, will become adult members of the household and will require a valid Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check in settings where a foster child or foster children are living. To ensure 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.

Where No Foster Children are Living in the “Staying Put” Arrangement

Whilst legislation relating to fostering will no longer apply (if no foster child remains in the household), key standards should continue to govern the expectations of the “Staying Put” arrangement and carer/s when a young person reaches the age of eighteen. 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 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).

The application of the above checks will only need to be considered where there are no fostered children remaining in the placement. Local Authorities will need to assess individual circumstances and consider the appropriateness of all these checks, where the ‘Staying Put’ young person is the only person living with their carer(s) and it is not envisaged further foster children will be placed.

Sometimes ‘Staying Put’ carers are not able to take another foster placement whilst the young person remains living with them but wish to remain approved Foster Carers in order to resume fostering in the future and should continue to receive:

  • Regular Supervision sessions and visits from a Fostering Supervising Social Worker (including an annual unannounced visit);
  • Advice, assistance and support from their Supervising Social Worker.

Minimum Standards

As a minimum, local authorities will need to ensure the “Staying Put” arrangement is deemed ‘suitable accommodation’ and meets the requirement of Regulation 6, 7 & 9 and Schedule 2 of the Planning Transition to Adulthood Guidance, which includes the Care Leavers (England) Regulations 2010.

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 should be converted to Adult Placements or Shared Lives Arrangements when the child reaches their eighteenth birthday. This is important to insure that both the child and young person and the foster carer and adult placement carer have a formal regulatory and safeguarding framework that addresses their respective needs.


4. Benefits for Young People

See also: Staying Put: Arrangements for Care Leavers aged 18 and Above to Stay on with Their Former Foster Carers (HM Government, May 2013).

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.

Young people can claim Income Support under the ‘Relevant Education’ rules if they remain ‘estranged’ from their family and are undertaking a full time (over 12 hours of guided learning) education or training course which is of a non-advanced education level.

Lone Parents can claim Income Support until their child is 5 years old, Healthy Start Vouchers and a Sure Start Maternity Grant (1st child only) 11 weeks before the due birth date. From the birth of their baby they will also be eligible to claim Child Tax Credits and Child Benefit (Eligible and Relevant lone parents aged 16 & 17 can also claim the above benefits, but only from the birth of their baby, unless they are in receipt of Employment & Support Allowance).

Employment & Support Allowance can be claimed in circumstances where young people are deemed ‘sick or disabled' (If the young person fits the eligibility criteria this benefit can be claimed from their 16th birthday regardless of being Section 20, or section 31, or living in foster care). Young people with a disability may also be in receipt of a Disability Living Allowance or a Personal Independence Payment.

Jobseekers Allowance where young people are registered as unemployed and are available for and actively seeking full time employment.

Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit, but only where there is a liability to pay rent on a commercial basis. It should be noted that there are implications for the carer where housing benefit is claimed, particularly if the carer is in receipt of a means tested benefit themselves, these issues are explained below.

Claiming 1, 2, 3 or 4 will not normally have any impact on the foster carers or “Staying Put” carer/s’ own benefits should they be claiming themselves.

Housing Benefit, and Council Tax Benefit for Young People

From the age of eighteen, young people who fall within the definition of former relevant children (or qualifying) who have a liability to pay rent can claim help from Housing Benefit towards their rent.

Those care leavers living in the private sector will normally have their Housing Benefit based on the Local Housing Allowance. Their rent may be met to the one-bedroom self contained rate until they are aged twenty-two when it will be met to the one bedroom shared rate.

Where meals are provided, as in some “Staying Put” arrangements, the rules are more involved. The level of Housing Benefit being based on a reasonable rent for a one-bedroom dwelling with meals included which is set by the Local Rent Officer who will provide what is called a Local Reference Rent or a Claim Related Rent for their home. The lowest of these, less an amount for meals, will become the maximum rent used to work out the amount of help given with their rent, until they are aged twenty-two when it will be met to the Single Room Rent.

In circumstances where Housing Benefit is based on the maximum rent, it is possible to request a Pre-Tenancy Determination in advance of the Housing Benefit claim being submitted, in order to determine the level of Housing Benefit that will be paid on a given property. Pre-Tenancy Determinations are carried out by the Local Rent Officer.

Once a child reaches the age of eighteen the primary framework governing these arrangements is tenure law. Young people are deemed excluded occupiers on a license.

To be eligible to claim Housing Benefit young people must have a liability to pay rent that is both enforceable and is established on a commercial basis. When considering the commerciality of the arrangement the local authority (Housing Benefit Department) would need to make a judgement on the facts, including being satisfied that the arrangement is not ‘contrived’ and doesn’t include any unenforceable terms.

Housing Benefit Issues for “Staying Put” Arrangements

A Licence Agreement will be completed between the “Staying Put” carer(s) and young person and will be supported by Children’s Services. The Licence Agreement can be used to establish the young person’s liability to pay rent.

Where no meals/food is provided within the “Staying Put” arrangement, the method used to calculate the level of Housing Benefit will be the Local Housing Allowance. Young people who are care leavers are eligible to claim up to the one-bedroom self contained Local Housing Allowance rate so long as there is a genuine liability for rent to that level on a commercial basis.

Where meals/food is provided within the “Staying Put” arrangement, the method used to calculate the level of Housing Benefit will be the 1996 Housing Benefit maximum rent rules relating to ‘Boarder’ arrangements. The amount payable will be set by the Local Rent Officer who will provide a Local Reference Rent or a Claim Related Rent for their home. The lowest of these will be used to work out the amount of help given with their rent, less an amount for meals.

Young People are able to claim Housing Benefit even when their “Staying Put” carer(s) are in receipt of Housing Benefit themselves. However, where carers are in receipt of benefits themselves the non-section 23C element will be counted as income from the “Staying Put” arrangement, this non-section 23C element will be treated as income from a ‘Boarder’. See section on carers’ benefits.

Where Housing Benefit is paid under the 1996 Housing Benefit rules Children’s Services “Staying Put” Schemes can request that the Housing Benefit payments are paid directly to Children’s Services as agents (sometimes deemed a third party claim) of the carer(s).

Where Housing Benefit is paid under the Local Housing Allowance rules, this should be paid to the claimant, unless the claimant is ‘vulnerable’ in which case the payment can be paid to the landlord or Children’s Services as an agent for the landlord. Being previously looked after, and requiring an on-going supported environment should help to highlight the continued ‘vulnerability’ of the claimant.

To ensure positive partnership working Children’s Services staff and Housing Benefits staff should set up liaison arrangements to develop an understanding of their respective frameworks and to formalise joint working arrangements.

Housing Benefit cannot be paid to close relatives; therefore young people who remain living with closely related former kinship/family and friends carers under a “Staying Put” arrangement will not be able to claim Housing Benefit towards their rent liability.

The Treatment of Benefits

Payments from Children’s Services to young people under Section 17, Section 20, Section 23, Section 24 and Section 31 (Children Act 1989) do not count as income for benefit purposes. Payments made to young people and passed to former foster carer/s from section 23C (Children Act 1989) are disregarded in the assessment of the former foster carer/s’ income for benefit purposes, if the young person was formerly in the claimant’s care, is aged 18 or over and continues to live with the claimant within a non-commercial family type arrangement. If the arrangement is a commercial one the section 23C disregard ceases on any non-section 23C element of the whole payment.

Early planning for, and identification of, the benefits and financial circumstances of individual carers is critical to ensuring that appropriate plans and arrangements are in place for both the carers and young person. Given the complexity of making these arrangements, commencing planning these from the child’s 16th birthday should provide sufficient time to ensure the necessary arrangements and support are in place by their eighteenth birthday. This should provide enough time to ensure that “Staying Put” carers and the local authority evaluate the different options available and choose the appropriate one that best suits the carer(s) circumstances.

Council Tax and Council Tax Benefit

The position regarding Council Tax will vary depending on the circumstances of the carers, the number of adults in the household and the activity that the young person is engaged in Young people undertaking full time education are ‘invisible’ for council tax purposes.

In circumstances where “Staying Put” carers qualify for a 25% single person reduction or full Council Tax Benefit and the situation of the young person has an impact on the discount or Council Tax Benefit.

Practical Arrangements

“Staying Put” carers will be encouraged to inform their mortgage provider or landlord and their buildings and contents insurance provider that they will continue to be supporting a former foster child as a young adult under a “Staying Put” arrangement. Failure to inform the above may cause a breach of mortgage/tenancy requirements and may result in their insurance cover being void due to a ‘failure to disclose material facts’.

Where “Staying Put” carers transport young people, similar arrangements to those in place for transporting foster children should continue to apply, this may include, the need for comprehensive business insurance, a valid MOT and a Road Vehicle License and a road worthy vehicle.

In addition, the local authority will provide “Staying Put” carer(s) with the same liability insurance cover that they had when they were Foster Carers.

This policy also provides a framework to allow care leavers at university to return to their former carers during vacation time, and young people who commence basic training with the armed services to return to their carers during breaks, reflecting the ongoing support which would be available to young people living in supportive families.

End