To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what steps he is taking to ensure that local authorities house care leavers in an area close to their foster parents, should both parties wish, even if the foster placement was facilitated by another local authority and do not meet the residential time limit qualification.
When young people leave their care placement, the local authority has a duty to ensure that their new home is suitable for their needs and is linked to their wider plans and aspirations (for example, if a young person wishes to live near their former foster parent).
Local authority children’s services need to work with housing authorities and other partners to secure a range of suitable housing and support options for young people leaving care. Partners should aim to ensure the effective use of joint resources for planning and commissioning accommodation and support services for young people, including care leavers.
Supporting care leavers to stay with their former foster parents (‘Staying Put’ arrangements) will allow them to leave stable and secure homes when they are ready and able to make the transition to independence. The Staying Put duty introduced in May 2014 requires local authorities to support young people to stay with their former foster parents up to the age of 21, if the young person and their foster parents want the arrangement to continue. Local authorities should assess whether such an arrangement would meet the needs of the young person once they reach the age of 18 and that it would be consistent with their welfare. Staying Put has helped many care leavers to continue to benefit from a stable and secure family setting and to prepare for independence at a more gradual pace, rather than facing a ‘cliff-edge’ at age 18.
Since its introduction, the department has provided over £90 million in funding to local authorities to implement Staying Put and is providing a further £23.77 million in 2019-20. The latest data (for the year ending March 2018) showed that 55% of 18 year olds chose to stay with their foster parents, which is an increase of 4% on 2017. The data also show that 31% of 19 year olds and 21% of 20 year olds were still living with their former foster parents.