To ask the Secretary of State for Education, with reference to the November 2018 Fostering Network report entitled Staying Put: An Unfulfilled Promise, if he will make an assessment of the potential merits of introducing a national minimum Staying Put allowance.
To ask the Secretary of State for Education, with reference to the report entitled, Staying Put: An Unfulfilled Promise, published in November 2018 by the Fostering Nework, what steps his Department is taking to prevent foster carers losing their approval as a foster carer through Staying Put arrangements.
The government keeps the Staying Put policy under constant review, including through monitoring data from local authorities on take-up by young people, engagement with the sector, and reviewing information from Ofsted inspections of local authorities. Staying Put was also considered as part of the independent fostering review undertaken by Sir Martin Narey and Mark Owers, published in February 2018. Staying Put has helped thousands of care leavers to transition more smoothly from care to independence, and provides continuity of relationships and care arrangements. The latest data shows that increasing numbers of care leavers are living in Staying Put arrangements. In the year ending March 2018, 55% of 18 year olds chose to Stay Put, which is an increase of 4% compared to 2017.
The government does not believe that introducing a national minimum allowance for Staying Put carers is the right way forward. Unlike children in foster care, young people in Staying Put arrangements are adults and may be in work, or claiming benefits. These financial sources can be used to contribute to the cost of providing the Staying Put arrangement, in a similar way that young people who are still living at home with their parents may contribute to the cost of running the household.
The amount of funding the government has provided to local authorities in 2018/19 to implement Staying Put is £23.30 million, with a further £23.77 million committed for 2019/20. Decisions on funding beyond March 2020 will be subject to the outcome of the next Spending Review.
The level of financial support local authorities provide for each Staying Put arrangement depends on individual needs and circumstances, with the amount that the carer receives negotiated on a case-by-case basis. Statutory guidance makes clear that local authorities must give careful consideration to the impact of the Staying Put arrangement on the family’s financial position. Local authorities must consider all the factors relating to each local Staying Put arrangement, with the current arrangements allowing local authorities to cover all reasonable costs that may support the care leaver to remain living with their former foster carer.
The government does not believe that a foster carer’s approval should automatically lapse after 12 months if they are a Staying Put carer and will communicate this message to the sector.