Fostering has been in the public eye again.
It was recently announced that the DfE will make a total of £22.2m available to local authorities this year. This is to fund the cost of allowing young people to remain with their foster care families until they reach the age of 21. The figure was announced in a letter sent to councils from the DfE. There has been much debate around the issue of cuts and frozen allowances in respect of foster care services but it has to be recognised that; in this instance, this figure represents a 50% increase on the £14.8m councils received in 2015/2016.
“Staying Put” is the name of the scheme allowing young people to stay with their foster family
from 18 to 21. The increase means that for the first three years of the scheme the combined government funding stands at £44.4m. In December 2013 the figure allocated for the first three years of the scheme was £40m so funding has been increased. There have been claims in the past that ‘Staying Put” was being hindered by a lack of funding. The Nationwide Association of Fostering Providers produced a report in December querying whether the £40m additional government funding was not enough for councils to bring in the scheme because of wider cuts made to children’s services.
The situation as regards take up of the scheme across the country is far from uniform. The children’s minister Edward Timpson has recently revealed that there are in England at least five local authorities where not one young person has remained in their foster care placement past the age of 18. The figures that were released reveal that in England 3,230 were living with their foster carers on their 18th birthday during the year ending March 31 2015. Breaking this figure down further revealed that 1,560 were still resident with their former foster carers three months after their eighteenth birthday – representing 48.3 percent of the total. A closer examination of the situation indicates that there are five local authorities Herefordshire, Leicester, Wandsworth, Tower Hamlets and Gloucestershire who in total have 145 young people eligible for “Staying Put”. Significantly, none of these young people were living with their former foster carers three months after turning 18. It also emerged that another 30 councils, either did not provide data, or the DfE cited confidentiality as the reason why data given had not been put into the public domain.
Middlesborough, York, Wakefield, East Sussex and Havering are amongst 27 local authorities where the picture is very different. They have submitted figures that divulge 100% of their young people eligible for Staying Put were still resident with their former foster carers three months after their 18th birthday.
The government’s figures have been challenged by Tower Hamlets Council whose view was that the figures were “factually incorrect owing to an error in the data provided” They reported that in terms of their own figures – 17 eligible young people in the borough remained with their foster carers during 2014/15 and that there are at the moment 19 eligible young people with their carers.
The reaction of The Fostering Network’s campaigns manager, Vicki Swain, was that an overall figure of 48.3% of young people staying with their foster carers after three months is encouraging.
It is a clear improvement on some previous estimates that had put the figure in the region of 25%.
Vicki Swain went on to state:
“We are concerned that over 30 local authorities have either not submitted their data, or the DfE hasn’t released it, citing confidentiality reasons., which means we’ve been left to hazard a guess as to how well Staying Put is being implemented in those areas.”
“We have been speaking to the DfE and a number of local authorities about these figures in the hope of shedding light on the real situation, and we are awaiting more details before conducting any further analysis, or comment.”
It is disappointing that take up of the scheme seems to be patchy and there are question marks over how uniformly it is being applied across the country. The DfE, DWP and HMRC Guidance published in May 2013 – “Staying Put” – Arrangements for Care Leavers aged 18 and above to stay on with their former foster carers – made some compelling points as to the need for such a scheme.
Central to what was proposed is the idea that a more graduated approach is required around planning and support for the transition to adulthood. Across society as a whole the average age of leaving home is rising and for a range of factors this transition to adulthood is “increasingly becoming more complex and elongated.” Staying Put is about ensuring young people can stay with their former foster carers and be supported to be better prepared for adulthood. They are then less likely to get caught up in a cycle of housing and tenancy breakdowns as well finding themselves socially excluded.
We are a real community at Rainbow Fostering and there is never a shortage of good ideas. We are now looking into setting up yoga sessions for our carers. The health benefits of yoga at whatever age you start are amazing. We shall be doing a blog devoted to this subject as well as adding a section to our web site “Fit To Foster’ to communicate the benefits to all our carers.
Fostering can be challenging and great emphasis is rightly placed on the need to be resilient. Yoga can calm the mind, boost the immune system and create a sense of well being. This can only help in dealing with the stresses and strains involved in fostering. This will make it easier to get a sense of the joys of caring for a child or young person as well as setting them a great example.