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.
AMENDMENTThis chapter was revised in June 2020 and added to the procedures manual in September 2020.
Moving into adulthood is often a turbulent time: transitions don't always happen in the order we envisaged: leave school, work, relationship, setting up home, parenthood. The reality is that young people can become an adult in one area but not in others. Whilst most young people know they can call on the support of their families to help them through times of need, care leavers often don't have the same help to fall back on. That's why we changed the law in the Children and Families Act 2014 to place a duty on local authorities to support care leavers who wished to stay with their former foster carers ('staying put' arrangements) until aged 21. Most importantly of all, it allows them to leave stable and secure homes when they are ready and able to make the transition to independence. This practice guidance will help councils to implement their new duty and brings together what the best councils are doing to support carers and young people in 'staying put' arrangements. I'm grateful for the support and time that many in local government have given to the development of the guidance as well as to all those voluntary organisations who led this work, particularly the Fostering Network, NCB and Who Cares? Trust. I'm sure we can all agree that this momentous change will give young people leaving care a much better chance of making a success of what lies ahead.
Edward Timpson, Children's Minister
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 parent with a view to maintaining the Staying Put arrangement (this must include financial support), until the child reaches the age of 21 (unless the local authority consider that the Staying Put arrangement is not consistent with the child's welfare).
Under the Care Leavers (England) Regulations 2010, Planning Transition into Adulthood for Care Leavers Guidance and Government Guidance Staying Put - Arrangements for Care Leavers Aged 18 and Above to Stay on With Their Former Foster Carers (2013), the Local Authority must provide information about extending foster placements post-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 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 their 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.
Note: Where a Staying Put arrangement is in place, the local authority, where appropriate, may consider delegating part of the personal adviser function to the foster carer (See Leaving Care and Transition Procedure, Personal Advisers).
3.1 Who Can Stay Put?
A young person can stay put if they are 18 years of age, were previously an eligible young person and were in a foster placement provided by Swindon Borough Council under Section 20 or Section 31 of the Children Act (1989).
There are no eligibility criteria for entering into a staying put arrangement, other than the young person being an 'eligible child' for care leaver support. If on the day before their 18th birthday the young person was a looked after child placed with a foster carer, and had been looked after for at least 13 weeks since the age of 14, then by continuing to live with their former foster carer this constitutes a staying put arrangement. This applies whether the foster placement was long term or short term, and includes placements made at any time up to the young person's 18th birthday. Local authorities have a general duty to do all they can to support care leavers into further and higher education, training or employment, but these are not preconditions for starting or maintaining a staying put arrangement. The legislation does not permit local authorities to introduce their own eligibility rules. There is no reason to put foster carers through any sort of assessment or approval process to become staying put carers because the arrangements are made between adults and are not regulated.
- This includes family and friends foster carers and foster carers approved by independent fostering providers. Entering into a staying put arrangement should be the norm, not the exception, and no young person should miss the opportunity to participate in staying put because the carer cannot afford to do so;
- Flexibility Arrangements should be sufficiently flexible to enable support to be provided over and above the minimum legal duty, recognising that the relationship between carer and young person will not always end at age 21 or when the staying put arrangement ceases.
Staying Put – Good Practice Guide, Children's Partnership
3.2 Who Cannot Stay Put?
- A young person in residential care;
- A young person with special guardianship;
- A disabled young person who could not be expected to live independently by the age of 21. This young person would continue to be subject to transitional care arrangements and would possibly be referred to the Adult Placement Scheme before the age of 18. Staying put is not intended to replace the process whereby disabled young people who meet the relevant criteria transfer to adult case services such as 'shared lives' placements. A shared lives placement could continue post 21 whereas a staying put placement will end at 21.
Early planning for staying put is crucial and arrangements should be considered as part of the care planning process, from the time that a long term foster placement is planned. Decisions in principle about whether or not staying put is an option should be taken as early as possible in the placement, and written into the young person's pathway plan.
Preparation for the transition to adulthood is not a one-off process to be thought about at the age of 16 but a continuous part of growing up. The young person's foster carer, and other members of the team around the child, will have been helping them throughout childhood to develop the life skills they will need. As the child gets older their care plan should begin to consider their future beyond the time when they are looked after, and this will be reflected in the permanence plan and placement plan. Whenever a long term placement is being considered, there should be discussion between the foster carer, the child's social worker and the supervising social worker regarding the possibility of it leading to a staying put arrangement. When the placement will be with a foster carer approved by an independent fostering provider it will be important for the person responsible for commissioning the placement to be involved. Local authorities should actively engage with and include independent fostering providers in discussions about staying put. Even if the independent fostering provider will play no role post-18, they need to help the foster carer to understand the implications of the decision and to prepare for the role, and to advocate for any support they might need. A decision in principle about whether or not a staying put arrangement is possible should be made as early on as possible, although a young person should not be expected to decide whether they will want this until they are ready to do so. Neither is it always possible for foster carers to make commitments into the future, especially if circumstances might change. Even when a young child is placed long term it is important that everyone understands the options from the outset, even though circumstances may change over subsequent years. Independent reviewing officers should ensure through the care planning process that looked after children are aware of the options, and that their permanence plan sets out expectations for when the placement ends. Staying put arrangements do not always arise out of long term foster placements. Even when young people enter a foster placement at 16 or 17, it is just as important to consider through care planning processes whether a staying put arrangement is an option available to them and, if so, whether their needs will best be met through such an arrangement when the foster placement ends. The duty to monitor and support a staying put arrangement is not linked to any qualifying period, so long as the eligible child was placed with the foster carer when they turn 18.
When carrying out an assessment of an Eligible child's needs, the local authority must determine whether it would be appropriate to provide advice, assistance and support to facilitate a Staying Put arrangement. Where they determine that it would be appropriate, and where the child and the local authority foster parent wish to make a Staying Put arrangement, then the local authority must provide such advice, assistance and support to facilitate a Staying Put arrangement.
The young person's Pathway Plan and a 'living together agreement' 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.
5. 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.
These should include in all cases but particularly in cases where there are no foster children living in the carer's home:
- A written set of standards and expectations that make explicit and clear what the implications of the change from being Looked After to being in a Staying Put arrangement, including what the young person and the carer can reasonably expect of each other and of the local authority;
- 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; and
- Opportunities to attend appropriate training.
The Local Authority will need to assess individual circumstances and consider the appropriateness of all of these checks particularly where the young person is the only person placed/living with their carer/s and it is not envisaged that further 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, it will be necessary to ensure that the Staying Put arrangement continues to meet appropriate standards.
Safeguarding arrangements will need to be sufficient, including disclosure and barring service checks on over 18 year olds and issues relating to fostered children in households. 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. As such, they will require a valid Disclosure and Barring Service check. To ensure that the check (and possible subsequent risk assessment) is completed by the child/young person's eighteenth birthday the process will need to commence in sufficient time.
6. 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.
7. 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.
8. 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. Where 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;
- Insurance issues including liability and household insurance. Staying Put carers should 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.
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.
9. Payment of Retainers
9.1 Young Person joins the Armed Services – including young people who go on residential training placements.
If a young person joins the armed services, the former carer can be paid a reservation allowance of 25% of the Staying Put payment while the young person completes the first six months of basic training. This is an acknowledgement that within the period of basic training, the young person may decide not to pursue a career within the Armed Forces and may wish to return to the Staying Put carers, whilst they plan their future EET. Young people are not expected to contribute to the reservation allowance. After the basic training ends, a reservation allowance will not be paid.
Where a young person's room has been kept exclusively for their use, and the young person returns to stay for a period of time, (such as during a period of leave from the Armed Forces), the former carers will be paid at the full current Staying Put rate, for the period of the stay. The young person will be expected to make a contribution to this depending on their income.
If the young person returns to former carers but their own room has not been kept exclusively for them (i.e. if they are using a temporary/sofa bed) they will be expected to contribute to the cost of their stay, at a rate agreed between the young person and their former carers.
9.2 Young Person goes to UniversityA reservation allowance will not be paid when a young person is living away at University as Swindon Borough Council is paying for the young person's university accommodation. During breaks from University the former carer will be entitled to the full Staying Put rate if the young person returns to their own bedroom. If the young person returns to former carers but their own room has not been kept exclusively for them (i.e. if they are using a temporary/ sofa bed) the former carers will be paid an allowance of 50% of the standard Staying Put payment, while the young person is staying with them.
10. Staying Put Allowances
10.1 Young Person's contribution to placement costs
There is an expectation that a young person in a Staying Put arrangement will contribute towards the cost of their placement, as any young person of their age would have to, in any other setting.
The amount of the young person's rent contribution will be agreed prior to the Staying Put arrangement commencing and should be proportionate to their income. The amount of rent a young person will be expected to pay will be determined by Universal Credit.
For Universal Credit and legal reasons, the young person will also pay a weekly amenities charge to cover heating, lighting, hot water.
As a young adult, if not in paid employment, the young person will be expected to claim Universal Credit or other appropriate benefits. It is a requirement that where a young person is claiming Universal Credit, the Housing Benefit element will be paid directly to the Staying Put carer and that the young person will authorise this when making their claim.
Staying Put finance can be paid in a number of ways:
- It is expected that if a young person is not waged, then they will claim national benefits to provide themselves with an income and pay the amenities charge to their staying put provider. A Universal Credit claim will be made to cover the rent costs;
- If a young person is working, then the young person will contribute to the rent and amenity costs. The rent costs will be determined by the locally agreed Single Room Rate.
10.2 Young Person claiming Local Housing Allowance (LHA)
Local Housing Allowance (2008), can be claimed by the young person Staying Put, if they are at college, on a low income or unemployed, and if no meals are provided in the support element, by the carer.
"If you are a care leaver under 22, or live with a care leaver under 22 who is your partner, and have no dependent children your benefit will be based on the one-bedroom Local Housing Allowance rate" (LHA rules)
Under LHA rules, payment is usually made direct to the young person and it is their responsibility to pass the payment on to the foster carer. It is possible for the payments to be made directly to 'the landlord' as Care Leavers are classed as a vulnerable group. Reasons for this request and any evidence must be attached to the LHA claim form, in order to set up this payment arrangement.
Where a young person needs to claim LHA there may be a number of issues to consider, such as if a Staying Put carer is claiming benefits in their own right:
- Individual circumstances would need checking to see if a claim by the young person would impact on the carer's benefits;
- If a young person shares a room and does not have sole occupancy of a room, benefits may not be payable, as the carer is already claiming benefit for the room space.
10.3 Young Person claiming Universal Credit
If meals are included in the support element provided by the carer, Universal Credit can be claimed and will be assessed on an individual basis.
In order to satisfy Universal Credit, the Staying Put rent is set at a market value i.e. a rate at which that accommodation could be rented to the general public.
LHA and Universal Credit can only be claimed for actual rent. They cannot be claimed for support costs, amenities, food or fuel.
When claiming benefits, it is the young person's responsibility to attend appointments with that agency. Failure to do so will result in the benefit being suspended or stopped until a new claim is made. The young person will be supported in this area by the Staying Put carer and the Pathway Advisor.
Where a young person is claiming universal credit for housing costs, it should be requested that this is paid directly to the Local Authority as the young person may have difficulty in managing their financial affairs. The staying put carers will then be paid the full weekly amount by SBC Finance team.
Where it is identified and agreed that the rent amount will be paid via Universal Credit, if the young person refuses to make a claim this will result in a reduction in the level of allowance the staying put provider receives. This may result in the young person being asked to leave. The young person should be advised that if they do not make the Universal Credit claim:
- It may impact on their future ability to claim Local Housing Allowance or Universal Credit;
- 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;
- If the young person cannot claim Universal Credit the Local Authority will compensate by paying an amount equivalent to Universal Credit to the former carers.
The ethos of Staying Put is to support young people to take on more responsibilities and learn about the adult world. The Staying Put carer or the Pathway Advisor will support young people with benefit issues, however where a young person does not engage with the support offered and persistently lapses their benefits, consideration will be given to ending the placement.
10.4 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.
10.5 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.
10.6 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.
10.7 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.
10.8 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.
11. Interface with Adults 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.
12. Ending of Staying Put Arrangements
The Staying Put arrangement extends until:
- The young person leaves the Staying Put arrangement; or
- 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.
It must also be recognised that the young person may also have a grievance with the Staying Put carers or others within the household and may wish for the placement to end. If the arrangement does end sooner than initially planned the young person will be supported by their pathway Advisor to move to alternative accommodation provision. The accommodation contingency plan should have already been explored and recorded in the young person pathway plan to enable a transition into suitable accommodation.