SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER
This chapter was added to the manual in July 2015, replacing the previous Care Leavers Staying Put Policy. It sets out Oxfordshire County Council's commitment and responsibilities for young people aged 18+, offering them a period of stability during which the young people can be helped to acquire the necessary skills in preparation for living independently.
Leaving Care Financial Policy for Care Leavers in Staying Put Arrangements
In January 2019, this procedure was updated throughout to reflect local practice.
- Legal Framework
- Purpose of Policy
- Key Principles
- Eligibility Criteria
- Status of Young Persons and the Placement
- Decision Making
- Staying Put - Making it Work
- Living Together Arrangements
- Young Persons Financial Arrangements
- Carer's Financial Arrangements
- Moving On
- Further Information
- Supporting Documents
Appendix 1: Staying Put Process Chart
Appendix 2: Living Together Agreement
Appendix 3: Lodger Agreement
Transition to adulthood is often a turbulent time for young people. The average age of leaving home is rising and the transition to adulthood is more complex and elongated. Recently published guidance from the Department of Education, "Staying Put: arrangements for care leavers aged 18 and above to stay on with their former foster carers" (May 2013) recognises the importance of supporting young people leaving care through this transition. It sets out expectations that local authorities will enable young people to 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. Under Staying Put arrangements the expectation is that young people could remain with foster carers until they are 21.
This policy sets out Oxfordshire County Council's commitment and responsibilities for young people aged 18+, offering them a period of stability during which the young people can be helped to acquire the necessary skills in preparation for living independently.
2. Legal Framework
This policy and arrangements meet the requirements as set out in the following legislation:
- The Children Act 1989 and Children Leaving Care Act 2000. The main aims of both regarding transition are:
- To delay young people's discharge from care until they are prepared and ready to leave;
- To improve the assessment, preparation and planning for leaving care;
- To provide better personal support for young people after leaving care;
- To provide the financial arrangements for care leavers.
- The Children Act 2004 which builds on the previous Act;
- The Children and Young Persons Act 2008 (contains amendments to the 1989 Children Act). This piece of legislation strengthens and makes requirements in response to evidence that young people leaving care had experienced poor outcomes. The key changes are:
- Section 8 of the 2008 Act inserts a new section 22D into the Children Act 1989. This is to ensure that any looked after child should not move from accommodation that is regulated under the Care Standards Act 2000 to other arrangements without a statutory review of the child care plan chaired by their Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO). A move to other arrangements would include moving to accommodation, which is often referred to as semi-independent accommodation, which would not be subject to regular inspection by Ofsted;
- No child should be made to feel that they should "leave care" before they are ready. The young person and professionals responsible for contributing to the plan must concur that they have developed the skills necessary to manage any transition to more independent living, where as a result, less support will be provided.
- Staying Put: arrangements for care leavers aged 18 and above to stay on with their former foster carers (DfE, DWP and HMRC May 2013).
3. Purpose of Policy
This policy aims to provide a framework for making decisions to enable looked after young people to remain with their current foster carer, or regular relief carer, after the age of 18 years and sets out the arrangements necessary to support this. This policy covers all care leavers, including unaccompanied asylum seeking children (UASCs).
4. Key Principles
Moving on from foster care should be a planned event and young people need to be prepared and supported as appropriate, according to their assessed need. In all circumstances, plans and processes for moving on should be identified and set out in a Pathway Plan for the young person and addressed at the foster carers' annual review.
Oxfordshire County Council has a strong commitment to helping young people achieve and recognises the importance of placement stability in enabling academic and vocational success.
A young person's legal status changes at 18, as do the local authority's responsibilities towards them, particularly in relation to the provision of financial support. Young people cannot be legally "fostered" post 18, therefore, placements which the Local Authority continues to support financially need to be termed 'Staying Put' placements. While fostering regulations will no longer legally apply, key standards should continue to govern the expectations of the placement when a young person reaches the age of 18.
The status of Unaccompanied Asylum Seekers (UASCs) has an impact on services available to them once they reach 18, so it is important for foster carers to ensure they understand the options open to them as they reach adulthood.
5. Eligibility Criteria
Young people eligible for a Staying Put arrangement are those who are in a foster placement immediately prior to their 18th birthday and meet the following criteria:
- A young person involved in education or a training plan, which continues after their 18th birthday. (note HE students are supported under the HE financial policy rather than the Financial policy for those staying put);
- A young person who is assessed as being vulnerable as a result of enduring health or learning disabilities but who do not meet adult services criteria;
- A young person who is actively bidding for social housing as part of the move on scheme, is bidding appropriately but has not been successful prior to their 18th birthday;
- A young person with no recourse to public funds who, following a human rights assessment, has agreed to return to their home country and are awaiting a returns package or are deemed 'non-returnable';
- Other young people to be assessed on an individual basis. The decision for them to become part of Staying Put will consider whether the arrangement will prepare them for independence, including engagement in education or training.
6. Status of Young Persons and the Placement
Once a Looked After Young Person reaches 18, they will no longer be looked after and the placement will become an 'arrangement' between Oxfordshire County Council, the young person and the carer. Fostering regulations and care planning regulations will no longer apply. The young person will be occupying the foster home as a 'lodger' and the foster carer will become their landlord. The legal term is that the young person becomes an 'excluded licensee' lodging in the home - this does not mean that the young person will be treated differently from when they were fostered.
7. Decision Making
The first LAC review and Pathway Planning meeting held after the young person's 16th birthday should be the first opportunity to discuss whether a Staying Put arrangement may be suitable. However, more detailed discussions should take place around the young person's 17th birthday. Once a decision has been made that the Staying Put criteria are met, the following should be done:
- The PA and Supervising Social Worker confirm with young person and carer that a Staying Put arrangement is appropriate;
- PA to forward details of care plan to Team Manager for approval;
- Social Worker/Personal Advisor to send request Service Manager Adoption, Permanence and Fostering;
- Social worker should ensure Staying Put arrangement is reflected in the Pathway Plan and the IRO should check this.
If it is felt that a young person may be eligible for Adult Services when they reach 18, the child's social worker should refer them to Adult Services at 16 and make the SM Adoption, Permanence & Fostering aware of this referral.
See Appendix 1: Staying Put Process Chart for more details.
8. Staying Put - Making it Work
Whilst fostering regulations no longer formally apply when a young person reaches the age of 18 the following standards should continue to govern the expectations of the "Staying Put" arrangement:
- Foster carer continues to support the young person to gain the necessary skills for independent living;
- Health and safety checks;
- Regular supervision from the supervising social worker;
- Attending required training;
- Yearly reviews of the carer/s;
- A review report presented to the fostering panel chair every three years.
Where foster children continue to be in the placement the following will need to be done:
- A return to fostering panel as there is a change of circumstances within the household;
- Disclosure and Barring Service check every three years on the young person who will become an adult member of the household. To ensure 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.
In circumstances where Staying Put carers only have an over 18 year old young person living with them, supervising social workers will need to assess individual circumstances and consider the appropriateness of all of these checks, particularly where it is envisaged that no further foster children will be placed.
9. Living Together Arrangements
Young people, Staying Put carers, Social Workers and Supervising Social workers should meet to develop a "Living Together Agreement" prior to the young person's 18th birthday. The agreement should set out the expectations of all parties and clarify roles and responsibilities. The agreement should be incorporated into the young person's Pathway Plan. The agreement should cover:
- Preparation for independence tasks;
- Finance, including young people having credit cards, loan agreement 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, safeguarding, role modelling and time keeping.
10. Young Persons Financial Arrangements
Young people who remain in a Staying Put arrangement can claim means tested benefits for their personal needs from their 18th birthday. These replace the pocket money previously contained in the foster carer's maintenance allowance. These benefits can be claimed regardless of the circumstances of the young person's former carers.
- Young people can claim Income Support under the 'Relevant Eligible' rules if they remain estranged from their family and are undertaking a full time education or training course. (unless in HE whereby student finance needs to be applied for);
- Lone parents can claim Income Support until their child is 5 years old. A range of other benefits are also available, including Child Tax Credits and Child Benefit from the birth of the child and Healthy Start Vouchers and a Sure Start Maternity Grant for the first child only;
- Employment and Support Allowance can be claimed in circumstances where the young person is deemed to be sick or disabled. If the young person meets these eligibility criteria then this benefit can be claimed from their 16th birthday regardless of their legal care status or living in foster care. Young people with a disability may also be in receipt of a Personal Independence Payment;
- Jobseekers Allowance where the young person is registered as unemployed and actively seeking employment.
All young people who remain in a Staying Put arrangement will be expected to make a contribution of £30 per week, towards their keep.
Young people will be expected to contribute to the rent, either from their income or housing benefit. Where a young person is earning their contribution will not exceed the Local Housing Allowance (LHA), and for many the contribution will be a proportion of the LHA.
11. Carer's Financial Arrangements
Staying Put carers are entitled to a Staying Put Carer's Allowance and carers will receive £232.00 per week in total made up of a payment for rent (from young person's income or housing benefit) and the young person's contribution. This covers accommodation, all utility costs, food and associated placement costs. The carers are not expected to provide the young person with a personal allowance.
The rent contribution from the young person will be deducted from the amount paid to the carers from the start of the Staying Put arrangement. The contribution towards keep will be deducted from the amount paid to the carers after the first 4 weeks of placement, by which time it is expected that the young person will be have completed their claim for welfare benefits.
Staying Put payments will affect any carers receiving benefits and these cases will be negotiated on a case by case basis to ensure carers are not disadvantaged. This may include compensation for any council tax or benefits reductions resulting from the Staying Put arrangement. This payment will be made under s23c of Children Act 1989 and is disregarded for tax purposes.
If the foster placement is with an Independent Fostering Agency, the Placement Duty Team, in conjunction with Commissioning team, will be responsible for approaching the carer and their agency, and negotiating costs and terms. Negotiations should commence with the IFA shortly after the young person reached 16 years of age regarding whether they will accept Oxfordshire's Staying Put rate being paid after their 18th birthday.
Young people are expected to apply for Housing Benefit once they are 18. If the claim is successful then the amount of Housing Benefit awarded will be deducted from the Staying Put Carer's Allowance and young people will be expected to use their Housing Benefit to pay their rent. If the young person is not eligible for housing benefit due to earning an income then they will need to pay rent out of their income. Where a Staying Put Carer is in receipt of a means tested benefit, and reduction in their income due to the young person's Housing Benefit claim will be compensated for by the local authority as a s23C payment.
Carers are advised to seek independent tax advice about their income tax. However, when young people remain living with their former foster carers under a Staying Put arrangement then the Income Tax and National Insurance framework and liabilities for foster carers have been extended to apply to former foster carers who are now Staying Put carers.
12. Moving On
Staying Put arrangements will last until:
- The young person has complete their agreed current academic programme;
- Until such time as they are considered ready to move to independence;
- They reach the age of 21.
If a young person turns 21 during their current academic programme they will be able to remain in the arrangement until the end of the academic year after their 21st birthday.
Where young people have remained in a Staying Put arrangement, for reasons other than significant vulnerability, the expectation is that they should move on directly into independence to a private rented house or social housing, and not move into the supported housing pathway. It is, therefore, vital that young people are prepared for independence during their Staying Put arrangement so they have the skills and knowledge to live independently when the arrangement comes to an end.
All Staying Put arrangements can be ended by either the young person or the carer on at least one month's notice. Social Workers must have a contingency plan in place in the event that arrangements are terminated at short notice.
13. Further Information
Further information about Staying Put arrangements can be found at:
H.M. Revenue and Customs Helpsheet (hs) 236 sets out information about the 'Shared Lives' - 'Qualifying Care Relief Guidance - Fostering and "Staying Put" Income Tax and National insurance framework'.
"Staying Put" Arrangement for Care Leavers aged 18 and above to stay on with their former foster carers - DFE, DWP and HMRC Guidance May 13 sets out how Staying Put arrangements can be eligible for the same qualifying allowance with regard to taxable income as in arrangements made for foster carers, as well as the implications on carers' benefits and pensions.