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.
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 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.
Young people living with foster carers supported by independent providers should be treated in the same way as those young people living with local authority in-house foster carers when consideration is given to a 'staying put' arrangement. Local authorities should have discussions with independent fostering providers at an early stage regarding the option of a 'staying put' arrangement. This discussion should include the amount of allowance the local authority will pay the former foster carer.
If a young person feels that his/her wish to remain with their former foster carer has not been properly considered by the local authority or they are unhappy with the way in which the local authority has acted, they may wish to speak to their Independent Reviewing Officer who chairs their reviews before they turn 18 and request a review of their Pathway Plan. The young person should be told of their right to use their local authority's complaints procedure to voice their concerns, and of their right to have an independent advocate.
Note: Where a Staying Put arrangement is in place, the local authority, where appropriate, may consider delegating part of the personal adviser function to the foster carer (See Leaving Care and Transition Procedure, Personal Advisers).
Discussion should start with the young person and foster carer regarding the option of staying put as early as possible, ideally before the young person reaches the age of 16.
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 may be superseded by a '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. It should set out the 'ground rules' of the household as well as the areas of responsibility that all parties to the arrangement are expected to fulfil. 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.
It should be assessed from the outset how the arrangement will help the young person develop the skills required for independent living once they move on. They should be supported to continue to develop a range of skills including:
- Relationships - getting on with neighbours; understanding acceptable behaviour; when and how to communicate with relevant professionals;
- Emotional Resilience - managing isolation and where to go for support. Building self-esteem;
- Finance and budgeting - opening a bank account, safe borrowing and managing debt, understanding basic financial products, benefits and welfare reform; budgeting for priority bills, household appliances and everyday shopping on a budget;
- Cooking - cooking healthily and on a budget; understanding nutrition and its impact on overall health;
- Managing a home - washing and ironing, cleaning, basic DIY, operating appliances and what is allowed within a tenancy; and
- Applying for jobs - understanding strengths and areas for personal development; developing job skills, understanding job/volunteering pathways and support available; understanding bursaries and other financial support; where to go for advice; understanding the impact of work on benefits.
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. In addition, the carer may also become, and be deemed, the young person's landlord/landlady.
The associated change from foster child to adult member of the household, and for the carer from foster carer to Staying Put carer, (technically the young person's landlord) should be carefully and sensitively planned in order to ensure that both young people and the carer/s understand the nature of the arrangement and that the positive aspects of being in foster care are not diminished by the new legal and financial arrangements and terminology.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.
These should include in all cases but particularly in cases where there are no foster children living in the carer's home:
- A written set of standards and expectations that make explicit and clear what the implications of the change from being Looked After to being in a Staying Put arrangement, including what the young person and the carer can reasonably expect of each other and of the local authority;
- 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, possibly, from their fostering supervising social worker; and
- 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.
Where Foster Children are Living in the Staying Put Arrangement
Where fostered children are living in the household, the checks and requirements associated with fostering legislation will apply and will 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 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, it does ensure that 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.
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 check in settings where a foster child or foster children are living. To ensure that the check (and possible subsequent risk assessment) is completed by the young person's eighteenth birthday the process will need to commence in sufficient time.
4. Support for Foster Carers
The local authority will discuss with the former foster carer whether they require any particular training and guidance to help support the young person. The type of support that a former foster carer will need to provide in a 'staying put' arrangement is likely to be different to that they provided when fostering the young person. It should be explored with the former foster carer the type of training and support they think they will require, particularly in helping the young person develop their independent life skills. Whether the former foster carer is from the local authority or an independent fostering service, careful consideration should be given to continued support which could include peer support.
5. Financial Implications
Whilst the level of financial support payable will depend upon individual needs and circumstances, former foster carers will be paid an allowance that will cover all reasonable costs of supporting the care leaver to remain living with them. Clear information will be provided to foster carers on the financial support which may be provided for staying put arrangements, in order to help foster carers plan well in advance whether they wish to participate in such arrangements.When deciding upon the level of financial support payable, careful consideration will have to be given to the impact of the 'staying put' arrangement on the family's financial position. The impact will vary from family to family.
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;
- Whether additional allowances provided when the child was a foster child to ensure they were embedded in the family will continue, for example holiday allowances, birthday and Christmas/festival allowances;
- 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.
The local authority will explain to the young person their full entitlements, including how they will provide the young person with their leaving care grant once they move on from a 'staying put' arrangement and live independently.
5.1 Means Tested Benefits
- 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.
Additionally, the disregard is lost on the whole payment (section 23C and non-section 23C elements) when the young person first leaves the Staying Put arrangement, should the young person return to their former foster/Staying Put carer or move to another carer after their eighteenth birthday.
5.2 Housing Benefit/Universal Credit
There may be Housing Benefit implications as a result of Staying Put Arrangements. Housing Benefit is, however, being replaced by Universal Credit. Individual advice will therefore need to be obtained.
5.3 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.
5.4 His Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC), Income Tax and National Insurance
For HMRC purposes only, there is a broader definition of 'Staying Put. A 'Staying Put' carer (for HMRC purposes only) does not need to be a registered foster carer or former foster carer. This means that young people are able to return to a different Staying Put carer between the age of 18 and 21 (or until the completion of an education or training course) - for example during a university vacation.
Where a Staying Put arrangement meets the HMRC qualifying criteria (and where the young adult continues to be cared for as a member of the carer's family) the Income Tax and National Insurance rules that apply to foster carers are extended to Staying Put carers. The young people are required to share the Staying Put carers' home and daily family life during the placement' i.e. live as a 'member of the carer's family'. This system provides for foster carers and/or Staying Put carers to earn up to a given amount without paying Income Tax or Class 4 National Insurance Contributions on their caring income.
The Income Tax free allowance consists of two elements. Firstly, a fixed amount per foster care or Staying Put household. Secondly, an additional amount per week per child.
Where there is more than one paid Staying Put carer in the household, the allowance is shared equally by both carers.
The tax free allowance only applies to the Staying Put carer's income from caring. If they have income from other sources, they will pay tax on that income in the normal manner.
Individual carers can consult their local HMRC office for guidance on their circumstances and liabilities.
For National Insurance Contributions purposes, in practice HMRC will treat the taxable profit from foster care or Staying Put care as earnings from self-employment. Foster care and Staying Put care is deemed as self-employment and as such carers should register as self-employed. All self-employed people aged 16 and over who are below State Pension age are liable and must register to pay Class 2 National Insurance Contributions.
5.5 Insurance (Including Liability and Household Insurance)
Staying Put carers will 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.
6. Young People Attending University and Other Settings Away from Home
Living away from the former foster carer's home for temporary periods such as attending higher education courses should not preclude a 'staying put' arrangement. This might include a residential further education institution; undertaking induction training for the armed services or other training or employment programmes that require a young person to live away from home.
7. 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 should 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.
8. 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.
Local authorities may wish to continue supporting a young person beyond age 21 if it meets their individual needs, such as finishing their course of education.
The local authority will want to ensure that the end of a 'staying put' arrangement is not another 'cliff edge' for the young person but a gradual transition to independent living. Procedures should be agreed at the outset about how any wish by the carer to bring the arrangement to an end should be managed. The social worker/personal adviser should discuss with the young person their transition from such an arrangement to another type of accommodation and agree the type of support the young person will require. These arrangements should be developed alongside joint protocols with the housing authority, setting out how access to social housing and care leavers 'priority need' status will be discharged.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.