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5.7.3 Staying Put

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.

RELATED CHAPTERS

Leaving Care Service Procedure

Financial Policy for Young People Receiving Leaving Care Services

RELATED GUIDANCE

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)

Catch22 NCAS, Put: What does it mean for you?

AMENDMENT

This chapter was updated in March 2018 to add a link to ‘Catch22 NCAS, Staying Put: What does it mean for you?’ This is a guide for young people which seeks to respond to a range of FAQ around ‘Staying Put’ and also has a useful comparison table of key differences between Fostering and Staying Put. It also includes a ‘Young Person’s top tips table’.


Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Criteria for continuing a Fostering Placement as a Staying Put Arrangement
  3. Planning
  4. Legal Status and Safeguarding
  5. Support for Foster Carers
  6. Financial Implications
  7. Young People Attending University and Other Settings Away from Home
  8. Ending of Staying Put Arrangements


1. Introduction

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 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 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.


2. Criteria for continuing a Fostering Placement as a Staying Put Arrangement

  • Staying Put arrangements can be considered and discussed with the carer and the young person, providing that the carer is willing to offer the Staying Put arrangement and the young person would like to remain with the carer post 18;
  • The young person should either be in education, training or employment or should be actively seeking to be engaged in education or employment;
  • The young person is assessed as needing continuation of the placement as the young person is displaying significantly delayed maturity and difficulties regarding preparation for independence and making the transition to independent living.

It is important that the young person and the foster carer understand the procedure for extending a foster placement into a “Staying Put” arrangement. The young person and the foster carer need to understand the financial implications and responsibilities associated with the new Staying Put arrangement. Furthermore, it will be important for the carer and the young person to be clear about the goals they would like to achieve i.e. ensuring that the young person acquires good independence skills. For this, issues such education, training or even personal development will need to be addressed.

If the young person has high support/dependency needs, the continuation of a Staying Put placement will be decided on the basis of the assessment of the individual young person’s needs. If the young person is not able to live independently at 21 years of age, options for a “Move On placement” should be identified early in the Staying Put arrangement and planning should focus on making this transition smooth for the young person.

If the decision is taken to assess the previous foster carers as adult carers, this should be carried out by a social worker from the adult placement team. This process should commence at least 6 months before the young person officially leaves full time education.


3. Planning

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.

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 proposal for the placement of the young person to become a Staying Put placement must be authorised by the Head of Service. A copy of the young person’s Pathway Plan and the statutory review which endorsed the plan must be provided to the Head of Services at least 3 months before the young person’s 18th birthday.

The Leaving care team social worker will convene a planning meeting immediately prior to the young person’s 18th birthday. The purpose of the meeting is to complete a Staying Put agreement in collaboration with the young person, the foster carer and the Supervising Social Worker and discuss practical as well as financial implications and mutual expectations.

The young person’s Pathway Plan 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. In a joint meeting with the carer, young person, Leaving Care social worker and Supervising Social Worker the following arrangements will be discussed:

  • 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; young person’s financial contributions towards the Staying Put arrangement as well as discussion about consequences if the young person refuses contributions or delays payments;
  • 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;
  • Arrangements for reviews as well as ending the placement.

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.

The Staying put arrangements should be agreed by the Head of service.

The Leaving Care team social worker will need to be complete a Change of Circumstances Form and send it to the Fostering Finance Department when the status of the placement changes.


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:

  • The supervising social worker will need to assess the individuals circumstances and consider whether the approval as a foster carer should be ended and whether the deregistration/termination process should be implemented in circumstances where the foster carer is unlikely to be caring for any further foster children in the future;
  • The Supervising Social Worker will continue to visit a minimum of every 3 months or more often if needed. The Staying Put arrangement will also be reviewed on a regular basis to ensure that it complies with local authority expectations;
  • Safeguarding and risk assessment checks on household members and in certain circumstances regular visitors will be carried out;
  • Health and safety checks will be completed annually(as a minimum this should comply with landlord and licensee/tenant requirements);
  • Regular supervision and support from the supervising social worker;
  • Opportunities to attend appropriate training.

Bolton Local Authority will 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.

Local authority former foster carers should be visited by their supervising social worker at a minimum of every 3 months, and offer support and advice if and when needed. The former foster care is able to access the local authority foster carer training programme, may attend support groups and receive 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;
  • 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 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.

6.1 Staying Put Allowances

How the Staying Put arrangement will impact on the allowances provided by the authority and whether other funding, for example Housing Benefit and funding for housing related support, will contribute to meeting some of the Staying Put costs.

Once the Staying Put arrangement has been formalised the former foster carers will continue to receive a weekly payment equal to the Bolton Council maintenance allowance for a young person aged 16+. The allowances will regularly reviewed. There is an expectation that this allowance enables the young person to continue to participate in family life.

In the case of carers who are not in receipt of Housing Benefit:

If the carer is the landlord, the young person can apply for Local Housing Allowance. If the Local Housing Allowance is paid it will be paid directly to the young person. The young person will be expected to maintain arrangements to pay this to the former carer as this amount will be deducted from the payments to the carers. If the young person does not make these payments:

  • It will result in the placement ending;
  • It may impact on their future ability to claim Housing Benefit in the future;
  • The young person may be considered to be "intentionally homeless".

Bolton Children's Service will need to have clear policies on young people's liability for rent which must be applied consistently otherwise the arrangements may be deemed a 'contrivance' by the Housing Benefits Department to maximise Housing Benefit for the young person. A letter/licence from the "Staying Put" carers and endorsed by Children's Services setting out the nature of the license agreement and the full payment/costs broken down into 1) Rent, 2) Support, 3) Utilities, 4) Food/Meals, should be provided which can be used to establish the young person's liability to pay rent.

In the case of carers who are in receipt of Housing Benefit:

However a young person may not be able to claim Housing Allowance if the carers are already in receipt of Housing Benefit or Local Housing Allowance to meet their own costs. If the young person is not in receipt of income to enable them to pay their rent, this payment will need to be made by the local authority to the carer. Such payments should be made under Section 23 of the CYPA 1989 (covered by the maintenance allowance). In these circumstances a letter should be written to the former carer confirming that payments are being made under Section 23 of the CYPA 1989 and that the payment should be disregarded for income tax and benefit purposes.

The total financial package received by the carer consists of:

  • Weekly maintenance allowance equal to the Bolton Council maintenance allowance for a young person aged 16+;
  • Local Housing Allowance (claim via young person- if the agreement is on a commercial basis and if the application for the Housing Allowance is successful);
  • Any contribution from the young person, from income or entitlement to grants, allowances or benefits (please see 5.3 Financial Contributions from Young People).

6.2 Additional Allowances

Additional allowances such as holiday allowances, birthday and Christmas/festival allowances will not be paid.

6.3 Financial Contributions from Young People

The young person might be in further education, college, employment or employment based schemes such as LASE or an apprenticeship. It could also be the case that the young person is in receipt of Job Seekers Allowance or Income Support. The Leaving Care Social Worker will work out the young person's income, which could derive from employment, student grants or benefits.

Depending on the income of the young person their weekly contribution would either be £25 (if the young person is in employment or education) or £20 per week (if the young person is claiming Income Support or Job Seekers Allowance).

These payments will contribute towards the carer's household bills such as food and utility bills. The young person would be required to pay for their own clothing and other expenses. The participants involved in the agreement have to decide between them how the payments will be made and agree on an action plan in advance if the young person withheld payments.

6.4 Means Tested Benefits (Carers in receipt of means-tested benefits)

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.

The contributions of the young person will be ignored as income for carers as long as they are not more than £20 per week. Any payments over £20 will be counted at 50%; if the young person is paying £25 to the carer, the carer will be treated as having an income of £2.50 for means tested benefit purposes.

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.

The staying put arrangement would be considered non-commercial if the young person does not claim housing benefit. As soon as a claim to housing benefit is made the arrangement would be considered as "commercial" and could potentially affect carer's benefits claims. It is therefore advisable if carers seek individual advice.

The young person would only be able to apply for the one bedroom rate of local housing allowance. This claim is means tested and the payment is dependent on the policy of the local Housing Benefit Office.

If a young person is in work or an apprenticeship, they will be subject to the means test, but minimum wage/apprenticeship rates would normally mean that some housing benefit and council tax rebate would apply.

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.

In most (if not all) cases, the carers - as owners or tenants of the property, would be liable for Council Tax, so the young person would not be eligible for council tax benefits.

If the young person is either in work or involved in an apprenticeship, they will be subject to the means test, but minimum wage/apprenticeship rates would normally mean that some housing benefit and Council Tax rebate would apply. This would then mean that the young person can apply for a Discretionary Payment.

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 per. 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.


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.

Former foster carers may be paid a Staying Put allowance to cover the time that the young person stays at home (for example during university holidays). This will be paid pro rata.


8. 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.

End