Timpson names councils with low Staying Put take-up

By Neil Puffett

| 02 February 2016

There are at least five local authorities in England where no young people in foster care have remained in their placement past the age of 18 during the last year, children's minister Edward Timpson has revealed.

Children's minister Edward Timpson gave details of take-up levels of Staying Put in council areas in response to a parliamentary question. Picture: UK Parliament

Figures released in parliament by Timpson show that, across England, there were 3,230 young people in a foster placement on their 18th birthday during the year ending 31 March 2015.

Of these, a total of 1,560 remained with their former foster carers three months after their 18th birthday – representing 48.3 per cent of the total.

The statistics, released in response to a question tabled by former children's minister Tim Loughton, reveal that rates of young people remaining in so-called Staying Put arrangements differs considerably between local authorities.

There are five councils - Gloucestershire, Herefordshire, Leicester, Tower Hamlets, and Wandsworth, where, out of a combined total of 145 young people who were eligible for Staying Put, no young people were reported to still be with their former foster carer three months after turning 18.

There were a further 30 local authorities that either did not submit data, or the DfE didn't release it, citing confidentiality.

At the other end of the spectrum, there were 27 local authorities, including East Sussex, Havering, Middlesbrough, Wakefield and York, which reported that 100 per cent of the young people who were eligible for Staying Put were still with their former foster carer three months after their 18th birthday. In total, these councils had 350 eligible young people.

Vicki Swain, campaigns manager at The Fostering Network, said the overall figure of 48.3 per cent of young people remaining in their placement after three months is encouraging as it is an improvement on previous estimates that put the figure at around 25 per cent.

“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 has previously been claimed that a lack of funding is harming Staying Put. A report published in December by the Nationwide Association of Fostering Providers (NAFP) warned that the £40m additional government funding for councils to implement the scheme – which gives all fostered children the right to request to stay in their placement from the age of 18 up to 21 – is not enough due to wider cuts across children’s services.

The report found that some foster carers were facing cuts in weekly fees and were unable to afford to carry on looking after young people beyond their 18th birthday.

Tower Hamlets Council has said that the figures provided by government were "factually incorrect owing to an error in the data provided". The council said that 17 young people in the borough "stayed put" during 2014/15. It added that, currently, there are 19 young people in ‘staying put’ in their placements.

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