5.7.2 Staying Put
SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER
A Staying Put Arrangement is where a young person who has been living in foster care remains living within the former foster home after the age of 18.
To read in conjunction with Northamptonshire Children's Social Care – Staying Put Policy.
In August 2017, a link to Staying Put: What does it mean for you? (Catch 22 National Care Advisory Service was added to this chapter (above). This chapter was also revised to more closely reflect Northamptonshire arrangements. In particular the term “Staying Put Host” is adopted throughout. The chapter should be re-read in full.
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 (Staying Put Host) 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 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).
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 a child's permanency / matching takes place prior to 16 years of age this will require the completion of BAAF paperwork to present to the Looked After Children and Permanence Tracking Meeting (stage 3 panel).
However, if a plan for permanence is agreed after the child has reached 16 years of age, then the documentation required will be the up-to-date Pathway Plan, which will include an outline of how this arrangement will meet the child's needs and the 'Staying Put Agreement', prior to child's social worker booking a slot at the Looked After Children and Permanence Tracking Meeting (stage 3 panel).
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 involve 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 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 should set out the overall plan for staying put. However, all of the practical arrangements regarding the Staying Put Arrangement should be set out in the Staying Put Agreement'. 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.
From the outset it should be clear 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 or pursuing education or training - 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.
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. 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. This should be triggered at the penultimate Child(ren) in Care Review, with the intention of being completed before the final Child(ren) in Care Review.
3. 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).
The associated change from foster child to adult member of the household, and for the carer from foster carer to Staying Put Host, (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.While Fostering Regulations will no longer legally apply to these arrangements, key standards should continue to govern the expectations of the placement when the young person reaches 18 and beyond.
These should include in all cases but particularly in cases where there are no foster children living in the home of the / Staying Put Host:
- 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 Staying Put Host can reasonably expect of each other and of the local authority;
- A system for reviewing and approving the Staying Put Arrangement and Staying Put Host to ensure that the arrangement complies with local authority expectations. This will be undertaken as part of the six monthly review of the young person's Pathway Plan;
- 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);
- In cases whereby the Staying Put Host wishes to retain their status as an approved foster carer, regular supervision and support will be undertaken by their fostering supervising social worker. However, where support needs arise specifically in relation to the Staying Put Arrangement, it is expected that such needs will be met by the Leaving Care Team via meetings, advice, guidance and reviews;
- 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 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.
Where Foster Children are Living in The Same Household as a 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.
Therefore, all 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. Therefore, it will be the responsibility of the Staying Put Host to seek funding via their approving fostering provider for a DBS check on the young person who is intending to convert to a Staying Put Arrangement.
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. It is therefore recommended that the DBS check is funded and subsequently applied for by the approving fostering provider between the timing of the young persons penultimate Child(ren) in Care Review and their final Child(ren) in Care Review, so as to ensure that the necessary safeguarding checks are in place prior to the young persons 18th birthday.
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.
4. Support for Foster Carers
The local authority will discuss with the Staying Put Host whether they require any particular training and guidance to help support the young person. The type of support that a Staying Put Host 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 prospective Staying Put Host the type of training and support they think they will require, particularly in helping the young person develop their independent life skills. Whether the Staying Put Host is from the local authority or an independent fostering service, careful consideration should be given to continued support which could include peer support.
5. Financial Implications
Financial implication of Staying Put Arrangements 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 stemming from their local authority membership of Fostering Network or the British Association for Adoption and Fostering.
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.
5.1 Staying Put Allowances
The 'basic rate' of Staying Put Allowance provided from Northamptonshire County Council will be £100 per week.
In addition to the basic rate of £100 per week, the Staying Put Host will also be paid an equivalent of an enhanced 'skills element' so as to provide an extra financial incentive. The skills element will be set at 'Skill Level 3B' in line with the enhanced rate (£168.33) that Northamptonshire County Council currently provide its own Foster Carers for 2017.
The combined amount of both the 'basic rate' and the enhanced 'skills element' will determine the overall set figure (no less than a total of £268.33 per week) that will remain payable for the period of the Staying Put Arrangement, unless there are significant changes in payment rates to Foster Carers.
In addition to the Staying Put Allowance paid directly by the department, it is expected that the young person will also make a reasonable financial contribution from their wages, salary, benefits or educational allowances. This amount (generally no more that 25% of their income) will be discussed and clearly set out within the Staying Put Agreement (Section 9 – Amount 3).
5.2 Additional Allowances
For the avoidance of doubt, the enhanced skills element payment (Skill Level 3B) is available to the Staying Put Host immediately after the young person converts from their former foster placement into a Staying Put Arrangement. Therefore, the enhanced skill level (Skill Level 3B) is for Staying Put Arrangements only and will not affect any other skill element payments that the Staying Put Host may receive for other children in their care who have not yet converted to a Staying Put Agreement.
Some additional allowances that were previously provided to ensure the young person was embedded in the family at the time of being Looked After as a foster chid, for example; Birthday and Christmas / Festival allowances, will continue (subject to terms and conditions as stipulated within the Financial Guide for Young People Leaving Care). However, instead of such additional allowances being paid directly to the Staying Put Host, such allowances will be made available to the young person via their Personal Advisor within the Leaving Care Service.
If the young person remains in the Staying Put Arrangement but is living elsewhere for the majority of the time, for example, undertaking a course of higher education at university, then the Contracting Authority (Northamptonshire County Council) will continue to pay a 'retainer fee' whilst the young person is living away and resume the full rate of the Staying Put Allowance when the young person return to stay during term time breaks. The retainer fee will be set at £130.12 per week inline with the retainer rates that Northamptonshire County Council currently provide its own Foster Carers for 2017.
5.3 Financial Contributions From Young People
As previously mentioned within this policy, it is expected that the young person remaining within a Staying Put Arrangement will also make a reasonable financial contribution from their wages, salary, benefits or educational allowances. This amount (typically about one third of their income) will be discussed and clearly set out within the Staying Put Agreement (Section 9 – Amount 3). Any remaining income is for the Young Person to purchase those things that would previously have been included in the fostering allowance, such as clothes, toiletries and food and should also cover social and leisure activities.
Where a young person is eligible for Housing Benefit their Personal Advisor, will support the Young Person to claim this entitlement in order to redirect this payment directly to the Staying Put Host. The Housing Benefit will be deducted / replace the 'basic rate' contribution to the overall Staying Put Allowance. In the exceptional cases whereby a young person is unable to claim state benefits, i.e. (No Recourse to Public Funds) or if the total amount of Housing Benefits is less than that of the 'basic rate' the Contracting Authority (Northamptonshire County Council) will provide additional payment to the Staying Put Host in order to compensate for any short fall they would otherwise have expected to receive from the 'basic rate' contribution to the Staying Put Allowance. If applicable, the exact figure will be clearly set out within the Staying Put Agreement (Section 9 – Amount 1).
All care leavers under the age of 21 can claim a higher level of Housing Benefit at a 'single occupancy' rate, regardless if there are other occupants living within the same household.
5.4 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.
5.5 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.
As previously mentioned, it is the expectation that where a young person is eligible for Housing Benefit their Personal Advisor, will support them to claim this entitlement which will then be paid directly to the Staying Put Host. The Housing Benefit will directly contribute to the overall Staying Put Allowance and replace the 'basic rate' payment. In exceptional cases where a young person is unable to claim state benefits, i.e. (No Recourse to Public Funds) or if the total amount of Housing Benefits is less than that of the 'basic rate' the Contracting Authority (Northamptonshire County Council) will provide additional payment to the Staying Put Host in order to compensate for any short fall they would otherwise have expected to receive from the 'basic rate' contribution to the Staying Put Allowance. If applicable, the exact figure will be clearly set out within the Staying Put Agreement (Section 9 – Amount 1).
All care leavers under the age of 21 can claim a higher level of Housing Benefit at a 'single occupancy' rate, regardless if there are other occupants living within the same household.
5.6 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.
5.7 Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC), Income Tax and National Insurance
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.
5.8 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.
6. 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.
In such circumstances the former foster carer will be paid a retainer in line with Northamptonshire County Council's fostering rates. This will increase to the full Staying Put allowance for periods when the young person returns to the carers address.
7. 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.
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.
If the Staying Put Arrangement unexpectedly breaks down, it is expected that the Staying Put Host must give 'reasonable notice' if for any reason the young person is asked to leave their home. The specific notice periods will be clearly set out within the Staying Put Agreement. In extreme circumstances it may be considered reasonable for the Staying Put Host to give very short notice and ask the young person to leave on the same day. Such reasonable grounds will also be clearly set out within the Staying Put Agreement (Section 10 – Notice Periods).
When the young person reaches 21 years of age the 'Staying Put' Agreement will release the Contracting Authority (Northamptonshire County Council) from any obligation, and any continued arrangement will become one that is strictly private between the young person and their former Staying Put Host within whose household they are living.