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.
Staying Put: What Does it Mean for You? (Catch 22 National Care Advisory Service) - This is a booklet for care leavers, regarding staying with their foster carer after the age of 18, and the duties of the local authority to provide support.
- Pathway Planning
- Approval, Reviewing and Support of Staying Put Arrangements
- Legal Status
- Financial Support for Staying Put Arrangements
- Leaving a Staying Put Arrangement
The Children and Families Act 2014 (Part 5 s23CZA) places a duty on local authorities to offer the opportunity to 'former relevant children' to 'stay put' with their foster carer from 18 until the age of 21. The guidance issued to local authorities is clear that the young adult will no longer be a 'foster child' and that the aim of Staying Put is that the care leaver will continue to receive support until ready for independence.
The objective of this Staying Put Procedure is to provide operational practice guidance for the implementation of staying put arrangements for Shropshire care leavers.
2. Pathway Planning
Leaving Care 16+ social workers should explore a staying put arrangement for young people in foster care by the age 16.5 years. This will either confirm transition to adulthood in the existing placement or allow sufficient time to develop and implement a Pathway Plan for another transitional placement. The aim is that care leavers' living arrangements are not disrupted by them reaching legal adulthood at 18.
Although the Government guidance clearly outlines the desirability and benefits of staying put arrangements with foster carers, local authorities cannot insist that foster carers agree to such an arrangement. Hence, this issue will need to be approached sensitively in order to avoid disappointment and potential disruption; for example, when a care leaver wishes to stay put but the foster carer does not wish to proceed.
The Leaving Care 16+ social worker should consult with the foster carer(s) and their fostering social worker regarding the potential for a staying put arrangement. If this is viable the young person should be included in further discussion with their carer(s). The staying put arrangement should be confirmed at a Looked After Children Review with the young person's Independent Reviewing Officer and written into the Care Plan, Permanence Plan and Pathway Plan.
If foster carers are clear that they do not wish to proceed with a staying put arrangement then alternative plans for post 18 housing and support will be considered; with the aim of care leavers moving on to supportive lodgings or another semi-independent placement by the age of 17.5 years to enable a planned transition to adulthood.
Care leavers may wish to challenge or have explained to them the rationale for foster carers not agreeing to a staying put arrangement. This is likely to be a stressful situation in which the care leaver will need support from their social worker. A Placement Consolidation meeting should be convened in order to protect against placement breakdown and to establish realistic timescales for move on options to be identified and accessed.
3. Approval, Reviewing and Support of Staying Put Arrangements
If foster carers continue to foster children as well as providing a staying put arrangement this will be noted at Fostering Sub-Panel as a Staying Put arrangement. The reviewing of this arrangement will be presented to the Fostering Sub-Panel as a sub-section of the foster carer review carried out by the Fostering Team. DBS checks will be required in respect of over 18 care leavers living in their former foster home with children who are looked after.
The provider's support will be via their fostering social worker and support for the care leaver will be via their Leaving Care 16+ personal advisor
If foster carers cease to foster and only have a staying put arrangement they should resign as foster carers and become Supportive Lodgings (SBL) providers - with this being noted by Panel. The resignation from fostering will be classed as temporary and the provider can return to fostering within three years subject to recommendation by Panel with an agreed training plan. After three years a full Form F Assessment will be required in order to resume fostering.
Annual reviews of this arrangement will be presented to the Fostering Sub-Panel by the Leaving Care 16+ Team. The provider will be supported by the Leaving Care 16+ Team SBL workers and the care leaver by the Leaving Care 16+ personal advisor.
The recruitment, approval, reviewing and support for 'non-foster carer' SBL providers will remain the responsibility of the Leaving Care 16+ Team.
4. Legal Status
A staying put arrangement with foster carers or SBL providers does not give an adult care leaver tenancy rights. Under housing law 'lodgers' are 'excluded licensees' - this means they do not have the security of tenure that a tenancy agreement provides but can expect to reside with their accommodation provider under an 'occupational licence' agreement.
All adult care leavers being supported under Shropshire Council's Staying Put procedure will sign an occupational licence. This will specify the terms and conditions for living with their provider, steps to take to resolve any complaints or disputes, notice periods and financial contributions. For care leavers with learning disabilities their capacity to consent to and sign an occupational licence may need to be assessed under the Mental Capacity Act 2005; the Mental Capacity Act Code of Practice 2007 should be referred to in terms of helping them make a decision and whether a Power of Attorney is required.
It is reasonable for providers to expect that the care leaver engages in education, training or employment as a condition of maintaining their occupational licence.
It should be noted that if a care leaver is asked to leave a staying put arrangement due to breaching their occupational licence this may affect the outcome of a homelessness assessment under the Housing Act 1996. The assessment would take into account the individual circumstances. Care leavers have automatic priority need under homelessness legislation up to the age of 21 years.
Hence, it is vital that difficulties in a staying put arrangement are identified at an early stage, support put in place to protect against a 'notice to quit' being issued. If the difficulties cannot be resolved then alternative suitable accommodation will be sought with the aim of preventing homelessness.
Staying Put arrangements will end when the Care Leaver reaches the age of 21 unless engaged in a course of education that commenced before the age of 21; the arrangement may continue until the course has been completed.
5. Financial Support for Staying Put Arrangements
At 18 years of age care leavers are no longer looked after and therefore fostering payments from Shropshire Council will cease. This will include fostering skills payments. The HM Government 'Staying Put' guidance (issued jointly by the Department Of Education, The Department of Work and Pensions and Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs in May 2013) covers in detail the financial support, benefits and taxation regulations that apply to Staying Put Arrangements. This guidance should be referred to when considering the financial arrangement of each individual Staying Put arrangement; for example, impact on means tested benefits being claimed by the accommodation provider.
Shropshire Council's local agreement is that Staying Put arrangements should be funded at the current SBL payment rate ( 195.00 per week January 2015) and that this will comprise of:
- The care leaver claiming Local Housing Allowance (which will be paid directly to the accommodation provider);
- A contribution from the care leaver (benefits or earned income);
- A contribution from Shropshire Council under S. 23C of the Children Act 1989.
Each Staying Put arrangement's detailed financial support will be individually assessed and agreed by either the Fostering Team or the 16+ Team. All Staying Put accommodation providers will receive the equivalent of the SBL rate ( 195.00 per week as at 01/04/2014). Shropshire Council will make a 'top-up' contribution under Section 23C in order to ensure this level of funding in the event of a care leaver being ineligible for benefits or having insufficient income. For example, care leavers Staying Put with a close relative after a Connected Person's foster placement cannot claim Local Housing Allowance and therefore Section 23C payments will fund the rent element of the arrangement.
6. Leaving a Staying Put Arrangement
As part of Pathway Planning, support and advice will be provided to Care Leavers who wish to move on to independent accommodation and to Care Leavers who are approaching their twenty first birthday. For the latter group this should commence at 20 years with Home Point registration and recommendation to Housing Options for 'Move On' status.
For Care Leavers who are engaged in full time further or higher education their Staying Put arrangement will be extended until they have completed their course and a reasonable period should be allowed for them to secure independent accommodation. Setting Up Grant for setting up home will be payable at this point.
It should be noted that some Care Leavers successfully stay with their supportive lodgings provider as a self-funded 'private lodger' when they become twenty one years of age or choose to leave education or training.
Shropshire Council's Safeguarding Children and Safeguarding Adults procedures will be followed in respect of Staying Put.
If an adult Care Leaver makes a safeguarding complaint against a Staying Put provider in respect of themselves the LADO and Adult Safeguarding Lead should be informed without delay.
If an adult Care Leaver raises a safeguarding issue regarding a foster carer or supportive lodgings provider's standard of care or abuse against children this should be referred in to the Initial Contact Team and LADO.
If there is a safeguarding allegation against an adult Care Leaver in a Staying Put arrangement this goes to the Initial Contact Team.
If Care Leavers in Staying Put make an allegation of historical abuse against a former carer of professional, this should be referred to the LADO and Initial Contact Team.