Staying Put

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

This chapter contains information on Staying Put. 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.

RELATED CHAPTER

Leaving Care and Transition Procedure

RELATED GUIDANCE

Staying Put - Arrangements for Care Leavers Aged 18 and Above to Stay on With Their Former Foster Carers – Government Guidance issued by the DfE, DWP and HMRC (2013)

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

Staying Put: Good Practice Guide

AMENDMENT

In December 2020, this guidance was reviewed locally and substantially updated.

1. Introduction

Under National Minimum Standards (Adoption/Fostering Services) 12.4 (April 2011):

'The fostering service has a policy and practical arrangements which enable children to remain with their foster carer(s) into legal adulthood, for example so that s/he may develop appropriate life skills before moving to more independent accommodation. Any such decisions are agreed with foster carers and young person at a placement meeting and are detailed in a child's placement plan.'

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 carer(s) with a view to maintaining the Staying Put arrangement (this must include financial support), potentially until the young person reaches the age of 21 (unless the local authority consider that the Staying Put arrangement is not consistent with the young person’s welfare). This arrangement will be reviewed quarterly.

Derbyshire County Council's (DCC) criteria to remain with former foster carer(s) in a Staying Put arrangement after the age of 18 would ideally be for young people who are in Education, Employment or Training, or cannot be. This though should not exclude those young people who are not EET where this is a clear reason.

Young people living with foster carer(s) supported by independent providers should be treated in the same way as those young people living with local authority in-house foster carer(s) when consideration is given to a 'staying put' arrangement. Local authorities should have discussions with independent fostering providers at the earliest possible stage regarding the option of a 'staying put' arrangement. It should also be sensitively considered at Looked After Child Reviews and in the Pathway Plan. This discussion should include the amount of allowance the local authority will pay the former foster carer.

If a young person feels that their wish to remain with their former foster carer(s) 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 an independent Advocate.

2. Aims

The key aims of the Staying Put Policy are to:

  • Enable young people to retain links with their carer(s); so that they can move to independent living at their own pace whilst retaining the support necessary to make the transition to adulthood, as their non-looked after peers would enjoy;
  • Provide the stability and support necessary for young people to achieve in education, training and/or employment.

3. Objectives

The Staying Put Policy meets the objectives laid out in the Children Act 1989 and the Children (Leaving Care) Act 2000, to address the needs of young people in care as they move towards independence. The Staying Put arrangement promotes the Acts main aims for young people, which are:

  • To delay young people's discharge from care until they are ready and prepared;
  • To improve the assessment, preparation and planning for leaving care;
  • To provide better personal support for young people after leaving care;
  • To improve the financial arrangements for care leavers.

Staying Put also fits within the Public Service Agreement National Indicators for Local Authorities 147 and 148, which identify whether:

  • The young person is living in suitable accommodation;
  • The young person is in Education, Training or Employment.

Staying Put supports the views expressed by young people in Keep on Caring; in particular, giving young people who are in stable, supportive homes the opportunity to pursue education, training and employment in order to participate both socially and economically without the disruption of having to move into 'independence' during this critical period of their lives.

Staying Put provides the gradual transition to adulthood that is enjoyed by the majority of young people in the general population. It provides a continuity of a supportive relationship and care arrangements and we want to maximise the number of eligible care leavers who do Stay Put.

Staying Put also provides a framework to support care leavers at university to return to their former carer(s) during vacation time, and young people who commence basic training with the armed services to return to their carers during breaks, reflecting the on-going support which would be available to young people living in supportive families.

Staying Put carers can continue to access the general Foster Carer training which is available to DCC carers. There will also be personalised support for Staying Put carers in order to prepare them to support young people through to independence.

Staying Put reflects the Government's determination to improve the experiences of young people in care, to challenge the poor outcomes historically experienced by young people in care, to reduce the gap between the quality of life of young people in the care of the local authority and those raised in supportive families.

4. Establishing a Staying Put Arrangement

When carrying out an assessment of an eligible young person’s needs, the local authority must determine whether it would be appropriate to provide advice, assistance and support to facilitate a Staying Put arrangement and when appropriate to do so.

The option of Staying Put should be identified within the young person's Care Planning/Pathway Planning process no less than 12 months before their 18th birthday. Both the carer and young person should be asked about this individually; the foster carer must not be asked in front of the young person. The Leaving Care Worker should inform the Staying Put Coordinator if a Staying Put arrangement has been identified as an option and is being considered by the young person and foster carer(s). Consideration should be given to whether the young person's needs would be better met via the Shared Lives/Adult Placement scheme if their level of needs requires support from Adult Care.

An arrangement to Stay Put must be agreed by both the young person and the foster carer(s). Advice about the differences between a foster home and a Staying Put arrangement should be given to the young person and foster carer(s) by the Leaving Care Worker, Supervising Social Worker or Staying Put Coordinator, in order for both parties to make an informed decision about proceeding with the arrangement.

Occasionally young people or carers may change their minds after making an initial decision about Staying Put. The system should always allow both young people and foster carer(s) to change their minds about establishing a Staying Put arrangement, but care should be taken to avoid disruption to a young person's education at a critical time.

The Leaving Care Worker will work with the young person to assess what financial contribution they will need to make to the cost of Staying Put. The Leaving Care Worker will also work with the young person to maximise their entitlement to benefits. Consideration should also be given to ensure that applications for benefits do not discourage a young person from obtaining or maintaining part or full-time employment. The Staying Put coordinator will work with the carer(s) to confirm the current DCC Staying Put rates.

The Leaving Care Worker will ensure that all claims for benefits are submitted in a timely fashion that minimises any potential disruption in allowances being received by the former carer(s). The Leaving Care Worker will, in conjunction with the young person follow up these claims for benefits until a decision has been made and a payment commences. In certain circumstances it may be necessary for the Leaving Care Worker to agree with the Staying Put Coordinator contingency arrangements so that the former carer(s) level of remuneration is not disrupted.

A Staying Put meeting will be convened ideally 12 weeks prior to the young person's 18th birthday in order to complete a Licence agreement. This will be in collaboration with the young person, carer(s) and Staying Put Coordinator. The purpose of this written agreement is for both the carers and the young person to understand what is expected of each other.

The Staying Put Coordinator will complete a CIC or Care Leaver Payment Request Workflow step no less than 2 weeks before the young person's 18th birthday and forward this form onto the appropriate person to ensure the carer(s) gets paid in a timely manner.

For young people who have exceptional needs or circumstances and may require additional funding support, a request will be directed to the Strategic Lead for Care Leavers for a decision.

Consideration should be given to whether the young person's needs would be better met via the Shared Lives Scheme if their level of need requires support from Adult Care. The Derbyshire Shared Lives Scheme is a DCC provider service offering family based support to adults who rely on the help and support of others to maximise their potential and maintain a sense of independence. The scheme provides long term, short breaks and day-care support. This support is provided by a network of approved Shared Lives Carers within their own home and in local community settings. It is possible for current carer(s) of young people to be assessed as Shared Lives carers and the young person and carer(s) should be asked as to whether they wish to be considered for this if appropriate. If so, a referral should be made by the Social Worker to the Shared Lives Scheme where an assessment will take place.

5. Professional Roles

The Leaving Care Worker will continue to provide support to the young person throughout the Staying Put process. After 18, they will complete Pathway Plans and support the young person within the new arrangement with the Staying Put carer(s). The Leaving Care Worker is responsible for reinforcing what the young person is expected to purchase from their Universal Credit, supporting the young person to apply for relevant funding and benefits, and helping them to establish a method of making any regular payments such as housing benefit to the Staying Put carer(s) according to the terms of the licence agreement. 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 and they should be supported to continue to develop these skills.

For DCC Foster Carers, if other Looked After children are residing in the home, the Supervising Social Worker will continue to provide support to the carer(s) for those children and ensure that Disclosure and Barring Service checks are undertaken on the young person who is Staying Put in line with Fostering Regulations.

The Staying Put Co-ordinator's role will involve supporting the carer(s) to understand the nature of the Staying Put arrangement and advise them about their changing role with the young person under the Staying Put arrangement. The Staying Put Coordinator will be able to provide on-going signposting about tax and national insurance implications.

For Foster Carers who work for an Independent Fostering Agency, in most circumstances the Staying Put Coordinator will provide the support to the former carer(s), rather than the agency worker. The support and advice provided will be similar to that described above and will reflect that the Independent Fostering Agency is no longer actively involved in supporting the former carer(s) to provide on-going care and support to the young person who is Staying Put.

If the carer(s) continue to foster they will continue to be registered as carers and undergo an annual review and comply with Minimum National Standards. If they leave fostering and only provide Staying Put, the annual review will be conducted through the Staying Put re-approval panel annually.

Dependent on the planned length of the Staying Put arrangement; consideration must be given to the Foster Carer registration i.e. whether they intend to return to fostering once the young person has moved on and how this will be undertaken.

Whether the former foster carer(s) is from the local authority or an independent fostering service, careful consideration should be given to continued peer support.

6. Paperwork

The Pathway Plan should identify an intention to establish a Staying Put arrangement.

A Licence Agreement should be completed before the Staying Put arrangement begins.

The Staying Put Coordinator will forward payment authorisation for carer(s) no less than 2 weeks before the young person's 18th birthday. The Staying Put Coordinator will ask the Team Co-ordinator to process a CIC or Care Leaver request work flow step payment.

An Aims of Placement document will be completed once the Staying Put arrangement is in place, and this will be reviewed minimum every 6 months.

7. Finance and Funding Sources

Potential Staying Put carer(s) should be signposted about where to go to receive advice about the income tax and national insurance implications of the Staying Put arrangement.

For carer(s) who are in receipt of welfare benefits, signposting will be provided as to whether Staying Put payments will be disregarded or considered as income for means tested benefits. These payments may include:

  • Rent payments paid to the carer;
  • Payments from the young person to the carer;
  • Payments from DCC to the carer (made under The Children Act 1989).

Legislation regarding the treatment of payments to the carer(s) is complex, and individual financial circumstances vary. We should encourage the carers to speak to their supervising social worker in the first instance. All DCC foster carer(s) have access to Foster Talk, which offers independent, impartial advice and support to foster carers across the UK. It may also be necessary to advise the carer(s) to seek specialist advice from the Citizens Advice Bureau about their specific circumstances and the effect of the Staying Put arrangement on their tax, national insurance, welfare benefits, and working tax credit or child tax credit.

If the carer(s) are tenants themselves, it is advisable for them to check their tenancy agreement and ensure that their lease allows them to have a lodger.

If the carer(s) are mortgage-payers it is advisable for them to check whether having a lodger is within the terms and conditions of their mortgage lender and insurer.

It is advisable for carer(s) to inform the Insurance Company providing their household insurance when a young person is no longer a fostered child but remaining in their home as an adult lodger, and to check that existing insurance arrangements still provide adequate household cover under this arrangement.

Foster Carers are currently covered for legal protection insurance provided and paid for by DCC in the case of an allegation made against them by a foster child. Carers, as part of the transfer to Staying Put, will be informed by the Staying Put Coordinator that this legal protection insurance cover does not continue under a Staying Put arrangement.

At 18, if not in employment, young people will be assisted to claim benefits.

Fees payable

The fee payable to the Staying Put carer(s) will be an amount equivalent to the Household Element of the fostering allowance for the 16+ age group.

The young person's contribution to their Staying Put arrangement and any housing benefit will be deducted from this figure.

The payment to the Staying Put carer(s) therefore will be made up of funding from:

  • Local Housing Allowance (LHA) or Housing Benefit - the amount varies according to area;
  • Financial contribution from the young person, from income or entitlement to grants, allowances or benefits;
  • DCC Staying Put funding will make up the balance of the cost to the equivalent of the Household element of the fostering allowance. (See Derbyshire County Council Financial Handbook Fostering Allowances and Payments Guide).

Contract Care/ Independent Fostering Agency Placements

If the Staying Put carer(s) was a contract carer or independent fostering agency carer, the carer(s) will be paid an additional fee (at the time of writing this is £100) for the first 6 months, reducing by 25% each 6 months. At the end of a 2 year period they will be paid the equivalent of the Household Element of the fostering allowance in line with other Staying Put carer(s).
The Christmas and birthday allowances will cease to be paid to the carer(s) once the young person reaches 18 years old.

A young person may not be able to claim Housing benefit if the Carer(s) are already in receipt of it to meet their own housing costs and in these circumstances, the additional funding will come from the Staying Put budget, under Section 24 of The Children Act 1989.

A letter can be written to the former carer(s) by the Staying Put Co-ordinator confirming that payments are being made under Section 24 of the Children Act 1989 to support the young person in education/training, and that the payment should be disregarded for income tax and benefit purposes.

8. The Young Person's Contribution

The young person's remaining income will enable them to purchase things that would previously have been included in the fostering allowance and is intended to enable the young person to develop budgeting skills. This would include travel, clothes and toiletries, and should cover social and leisure activities.

The Leaving Care Worker will continue to encourage the young person to access employment. If the young person has earnings which exceed a certain level, their housing benefit will reduce and the young person will need to contribute more from their income towards the rent element of the Staying Put fee. If the young person is in employment and earns more than the equivalent of the household element per week, they will need to pay the full rental element of the Staying Put fee in addition to their weekly contribution to food and bills.

If in exceptional circumstances, a young person's level of income is so low that they are unable to contribute, the Staying Put carer(s) should suffer no detriment, and if necessary DCC will make the provision where it cannot be found from another source.

If the amount the carer(s) are receiving is significantly more than we would normally pay then this will need to be reviewed on a regular basis.

Whilst the level of financial support payable will depend upon individual needs and circumstances, Staying Put carer(s) will be paid an allowance that will cover all reasonable costs of supporting the young person to remain living with them. Clear information will be provided to foster carer(s) on the financial support which may be provided for staying put arrangements, in order to help foster carer(s) 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.

The young person may be able to claim Universal credit or be entitled to a bursary if they are in full-time education. For more information please see the Derbyshire County Council website for information on the Virtual School.

The young person can usually claim Housing Benefit and as a care leaver be exempt from the single room rent restriction.

Housing benefit will usually be paid direct to the young person and they will be expected to maintain arrangements to pay this to the Staying Put carer(s). Housing benefit payments can, with the young person's permission, be made directly to the Staying Put carer(s).

The young person should be advised that if they do not make these payments of housing benefit to the carer(s):

  • It could result in the arrangement ending;
  • It may impact on their future ability to claim housing benefit;
  • If the failure to pay results in the Staying Put arrangement being terminated the young person may be considered to be 'intentionally homeless' by the local housing authority.

9. Return to Staying Put/Retainer/Allowance

A retainer can be paid in certain situations.

Young people are not expected to make a contribution to the retainer.

9.1 Return to Staying Put allowance

When a young person returns to stay for a period of time, the Staying Put carer(s) will be paid at the current Staying Put rate with the young person expected to make a contribution of £25.

9.2 Retainer - Armed Services

If a young person joins the armed services, the Staying Put carer(s) can be paid a retainer while the young person completes the first 3 months of basic training.

9.3 Retainer – University

A young person at university funds their accommodation costs - term time and holidays - from their DCC university package.

Returning to former carer(s) at Christmas and Holidays is achieved through an agreement with the carer(s) and young person about the level of rent and personal contribution they will make, taking account of the University funding package and any other source of income they might have.

The Staying Put Co-ordinator will offer advice on this in conjunction with the Virtual School.

A retainer can be paid to the former carer(s) of a young person who is at university during term time. The retainer is intended to help carers to maintain contact with the young person whilst they are away, for example for travel costs. At the time of writing, the retainer is the amount equivalent to the Household Element of the fostering allowance for the 16+ age group minus the housing benefit element and young person’s contribution.

10. Police Checks

If the former carer(s) is going to continue to be a Foster Carer, the young person in the Staying Put arrangement will need to have a DBS Check as they become an adult living in the home.

If the former carer(s) are still registered with DCC as foster carers the DBS checks will continue routinely.

11. The Independent Sector

The Independent Fostering Agencies are required to adhere to the DCC’s policy with respect to post 18 arrangements.

If the young person and carer(s) are willing to convert the placement to a Staying Put arrangement and be paid the current Staying Put rate (plus the additional fee for the first 2 years – see Section 4, Establishing a Staying Put Arrangement) then the agency should not do anything to obstruct this arrangement.

The Pathway Plan should set out what support should be provided, as in effect the role of the agency ends at 18. A young person cannot legally be 'looked after' after their 18th birthday). On-going support to former carer(s) in the independent sector will usually be provided by the Staying Put Coordinator.

12. Out of County Placements

For young people placed with foster carer(s) out of County, the Staying Put Policy is still applicable and should be considered with the young person and the carer(s) as part of the pathway planning process from when the young person is 16 years of age.

If the young person placed with foster carer(s) out of County has additional support needs, wishes to stay with carer(s) post 18 (carers are also in agreement) and is likely to require a service from adult services, a decision around their agreed 'Ordinary Residence' (See Care Act 2014, Chapter 19) will be required. It is advisable that planning for post 18 services starts as early as possible and at least from the time that the child is 16 years old ( earlier if the disabilities are severe). See Leaving Care and Transition Procedure, Pathway Planning.

If the young person has significant health care needs in addition to care and accommodation needs, the Department of Health and Social Care NHS Continuing Healthcare Checklist should be completed. This will determine eligibility for an assessment for NHS continuing health care.

Firstly it will need to be determined whether the young person has the capacity to make their own decisions about their future. A Capacity assessment should be undertaken by the young person's (Children's) social worker. This can be done with the advice of an Adult's social worker from the placing Authority or jointly if agreed. The resident Authority may also wish to undertake their own capacity assessment so this needs to be done in the most unobtrusive way to the young person and not subject them to several separate assessments.

If the young person is deemed capable of making an informed choice, their preferred area in which to reside may be considered their 'Ordinary Residence'. However, the young person will remain the responsibility of the placing Authority until they are 18 years. The Staying Put arrangement should therefore be pursued to ensure that the young person has a smooth transition to adult services and is not left without secure accommodation at 18 years. It is vital that joint planning between the young person's social worker and the resident Adult Services starts as soon as possible after clarification of ordinary residence and capacity. The resident Authority may subsequently re-assess the Staying Put provider as an adult placement provider, known in DCC as Shared Lives.

If it is decided following assessment that the young person lacks the capacity to make their own decisions, any actions or decisions made on their behalf should be in their best interests (Mental Capacity Act 2005). Consideration should be given to appointing an independent Mental Capacity Advocate (IMCA).

13. Young Parent

If a young person in a Staying Put arrangement has a child living with them, discussions would need to take place with regard to the financial arrangements for this on an individual basis.

14. Monitoring and Reviewing Arrangements

Staying Put Arrangements should be reviewed by using the Aims of Placement document at least every 6 months. This should include a review of any problems or difficulties which have emerged, and what is working well.

A review can be arranged earlier by agreement between the young person, carer(s) and any other professionals involved.

The young person and carer(s) can also access advice at other times from the Leaving Care Worker and/or Staying Put Coordinator.

15. Ending the Staying Put Arrangement

The Staying Put arrangement can be ended by the young person or Staying Put carer(s) giving relevant notice. Both parties should give as much notice as possible, and this should in most circumstances be a minimum of 28 days’ notice. The licence agreement allows for the ending of the arrangement with 7 days’ notice for a breach of the agreement, but in exceptional circumstances it can be terminated with immediate effect.

The Staying Put arrangements will end when the young person becomes 21. If a young person will be at a critical time in their education (e.g. final exam period) at the time when they reach 21 years they will be able to Stay Put until after this period.

Planning will be undertaken to ensure the young person can move on into suitable accommodation.

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. The Leaving Care Worker/Staying Put Co-ordinator 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.

If a young person is still in their Staying Put home and approaching 21 years of age when planning to end a Staying Put arrangement, it needs to be considered that a young person will no longer be classed as in "priority need" for social housing when they reach this age. 6 months prior to the young person turning 21, a plan will be considered by all parties to look at what accommodation will be available, and how this will be accessed.

16. Young People in Residential Care

Young people may also 'stay put’ in children's homes or other residential settings, beyond the age of 18, if this enables them to complete an educational course or qualification and if it is in line with the home’s Ofsted registration. This needs to be considered at their first Looked After Review following their 16th birthday and agreement obtained from the Strategic Lead for Care Leavers.

Alternatively, they may ‘Stay Close’ i.e. move out to semi supported accommodation near the Children’s home so they can easily maintain support and relationships with key residential staff.

In particular, there are three key elements to Staying Close:

  • The continuity that it provides for the young person, particularly continuity of existing relationships between the young person and those who care for them in the home;
  • Provision of suitable and sustainable accommodation; and
  • In each individual case both the young person and the home want to pursue a Staying Close arrangement where this is in the best interests of the young person and it is supported by the ‘team around the child’.