Staying Put Policy
SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER
This policy is consistent with, and takes account of, 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.
This chapter was updated throughout in January 2015 in line with Children Act 1989 Guidance and Regulations - Volume 3: Planning Transition to Adulthood for Care Leavers (revised October 2014) and should be re-read. And a section on the interface with Adult services added.
Under the Care Leavers (England) Regulations 2010, Planning Transition into Adulthood for Care Leavers Guidance and Government Staying Put Guidance (2013), the Local Authority must provide information about extending placements beyond the age of 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.
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.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. Interface with Adult 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.
4. 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.
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.
Where No Foster Children are Living in the Staying Put Arrangement
From the age of eighteen, young people are no longer legally 'in care' or 'looked after', and therefore fostering arrangements and legislation relating to children placed with foster carers no longer apply. Whilst legislation relating to fostering will no longer apply (if no foster child remains in the household), key standards should continue to govern the expectations of the Staying Put arrangement. This should include:
- A system for considering if a person's approval as a foster carer should be ended and for implementing the deregistration/termination process in circumstances where the foster carer is unlikely to be caring for any further foster children in the future;
- 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;
- Opportunities to attend appropriate training.
Local authorities will need to assess individual circumstances and consider the appropriateness of all of these checks where the Staying Put young person is the only person living with their carer/s and it is not envisaged that further foster 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, the local authority will need to ensure that the Staying Put arrangement continues to meet appropriate standards.
5. 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.
6. 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;
- Insurance issues including liability and household 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.
Payments to the former foster carer under the Staying Put Scheme will be arranged by that scheme, and on the young persons 18th birthday fostering allowances will cease. Arrangements will be made between the foster carer and the fostering service to cease their approval as foster carers if this is appropriate where the foster carer does not intend to foster any more children/young people.
If the Resources Panel agrees that the Staying Put arrangement will continue as a post-18 arrangement with former foster carers then a Staying Put allowance will be paid via the same method as fostering allowances. The agreed payment would be a proportion of the basic in house fostering rate for the upper age bracket, for both in house and IFA carers. For general Staying Put arrangements, this rate will be 80% of the rates recommended by the Fostering Network for16+. For young people who are away at College or University (and Staying Put arrangement deemed to be appropriate) the rate will be 60% of the non-fee element paid to foster carers.
Staying Put allowances will be paid to former foster carers directly by Central Bedfordshire. This includes Independent Fostering Agency (IFA) carers and no agency fee will be payable for Staying Put arrangements. Young people's financial contribution from their income will be collected by Central Bedfordshire directly from the young person. A Staying Put agreement will document the sources of income for the young person and how much they are expected to pay to Central Bedfordshire. Non-payment of contributions will be a matter for Central Bedfordshire to resolve with the young person as it will be a breach of the agreement.
Young people in employment / unemployed
If the young person is in employment, an agreement will need to be made as to how much they can reasonably contribute from their wages. In the case of low wages, they would have recourse to housing benefit.
If the young person is not in employment they will have access to full benefits - e.g. job seekers allowance, income support and housing benefit, which will pay an assessed "fair rent" amount. The young person's Personal Adviser would assist the young person to access all entitled benefits.
Central Bedfordshire require the whole sum of housing benefit to be paid as part of contribution from young person in a Staying Put arrangement. A proportion of other income is also assessed (means tested) for contribution towards costs of Staying Put. This will be determined within the Staying Put arrangement written agreement.
Young people attending College / further education
It should be noted that the financial support and entitlements around further education are complex and will be dependent on the type of course and college attended. The level of financial support given to a young person by the department to cover their rent will be dependent on the level of grants and bursaries that the young person is able to access.
Young people at University
If a young person attends University locally and wishes to remain living with the carers, then the same arrangements would apply as a young person remaining to complete a course of further education.
If they attend University away from home and wish to remain with former foster carers during vacation periods, Central Bedfordshire can agree a reduced Staying Put allowance.
Vulnerability and Individual case responses
In the event that an assessment shows that a young person presents as having a level of vulnerability or individual need or circumstance not covered by these arrangements and needs to remain in placement post 18, then these will be identified through the Pathway Planning and foster carers annual review process and considered by the Resources Panel on an individual basis.
6.2 Additional Allowances
When a young person ceases to be a foster placement and enters into a 'Staying Put arrangement' the ex-foster carer will no longer receive additional allowances such as holiday allowances, birthday and Christmas/festival allowances.
6.3 Financial Contributions From Young People
The Pathway Plan should identify financial contributions expected from young people from their wages, salary, benefits or education allowances. See Section 6.1, Staying Put Allowances above, for range of different circumstances. There needs to be a written agreement between the young person, the Staying Put carer and Central Bedfordshire as to how much their weekly contribution towards rent and 'housekeeping' should be. This should include a signed understanding of the young person's responsibility to contribute regularly and reliably.
6.4 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.
6.5 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
6.6 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.
6.7 Her 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.
6.8 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 stemming from their local authority membership of Fostering Network or the British Association for Adoption and Fostering.
7. 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.
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.