Staying put amendment has been added to the Children and Families Bill.

247304984_0a387066d8_mSome of you may recall a blog post I wrote on the 9th of October 2013, entitled ‘Leaving Care and the Children and Families Bill’, in which I wrote about the proposed amendment to allow children who live with foster carers to stay within foster care until the age of 21 years, if both parties agree.  Well, on the 9th of February 2014 this amendment was formally added to the bill, which is now at the Report Stage in the House of Lords. Following this the bill only has to pass through the Third Reading and the consideration of amendments stage, before receiving Royal Assent. The progression of the bill can be viewed here: http://services.parliament.uk/bills/2012-13/childrenandfamilies.html.

The Fostering Network, the UK’s leading charity for foster care, who have represented the voice of foster care, and have been influencing policy and campaigning for improvements for nearly 40 years have been running a campaign in this regard: Don’t Move Me. This amendment represents a success on their behalf, with the charities role being praised by Lord Listowel during the debate in the Lords Chamber (http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld201314/ldhansrd/text/140205-0002.htm#14020581000634).

Every year hundreds of children in foster care are forced to leave their homes at the age of 17, despite the fact that children who are not in foster care on average do not leave home until the age of 25.

Lord Nash argued that the Government is committed to ensuring local authorities implement the change, stating that, ‘We are continuing to work with sector organisations on the guidance to ensure that it supports the effective implementation of this important new duty. We are committed to doing more to support care leavers, and I believe that the proposed new clause is a crucial step forward.’

The Fostering Network stated ‘that at present, some young people are supported to stay with their foster family beyond 17 by their local authority, while others are reliant on their foster carers being willing and able to keep them out of their own pocket. Many young people find themselves having to leave their foster home and live independently by their 18th birthdays. This change to the law will place a duty on English local authorities to facilitate and support staying put arrangements for all fostered young people, where this is what they and their foster carers want. Crucially, the importance of financial support for foster carers has been directly addressed by the Government: they have pledged an extra £40 million for local authorities over three years to ensure that foster carers will not be out of pocket as a result of offering staying put placements.’

The fact that children will now, with the passing of this bill, be able and supported to stay within foster care until the age of 21 years is a brilliant step in the right direction. As the amount of adult children living with their parents in the UK rises, it seems only right to ensure that foster children also have this option.

Photo by kamshots via Flickr under a Creative Commons license

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