'Inadequate funding' undermines flagship fostering scheme

By Joe Lepper

| 14 December 2015

Lack of funding is harming the government's flagship policy to keep looked-after children in foster care until they are 21, carers are warning.

Under Staying Put arrangements, children can request to stay with their foster carers beyond the age of 18

A Nationwide Association of Fostering Providers (NAFP) report into the progress of Staying Put involved interviews with carers and fostering providers, and found widespread concerns over funding.

It warns 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.

This is leaving some carers facing cuts in weekly fees and unable to afford to carry on looking after young people beyond their 18th birthday.

The report says among those interviewed, “it was universally agreed that Staying Put had not been adequately funded by central government”.

One carer told NAFP researchers: “I can’t afford to keep my 17-year-old past 18 as fostering is my income and I will be expected to take a £300 a week cut if my placement ‘stays put'.”

Another detailed how a young person was forced to leave her care due to lack of funding. 

“If I was offered a reasonable amount, then I would have loved to have to have kept the child on," she said. “As a result of him not being able to stay, he made a quick decline shortly after leaving my care.”

In the absence of more government money, the report urges councils and independent fostering providers to work together to develop more flexible Staying Put policies. This should include councils ensuring they communicate earlier with foster carers over the level of Staying Put fees so that the transition from a fostering placement is better planned.

It also calls on the government to consider developing a national framework for Staying Put that helps set a standardised fee for placements, as also recommended by the National Audit Office.

Harvey Gallagher, NAFP chief executive, added: “Independent fostering providers and their foster carers feel as if Staying Put is something that is being done to them, where the positive, supportive relationships that have built up around a young person are put aside all too easily.”

This is the latest report to criticise funding arrangements around Staying Put. In June, a National Children’s Bureau report found that half of 500 children’s professionals and carers surveyed believed carers were not receiving adequate rates of payment.

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