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Fostering research reaches Westminster

Findings from a Loughborough University study into extending funding for foster care placements are being used by MPs to argue for amendments to the Children and Families bill.

An evaluation of the Staying Put: 18 Plus Family Placement pilot, which gave young people the opportunity to remain with their carers until the age of 21 (instead of before their 18th birthday), has been quoted in an amendment tabled in Parliament this week.

The evaluation was conducted by Emily Munro, Clare Lushey, Debi Maskell-Graham, Professor Harriet Ward and Lisa Holmes from the Centre for Child and Family Research (CCFR) in collaboration with the National Care Advisory Service.

Findings highlighted a range of benefits to staying put, including the fact that it:

  • Empowers young people and gives them greater control of the timing of their transition from care to independence;
  • Means that young people are not penalised by virtue of their care status; they are offered the opportunity to experience transitions that are more akin to those experienced by their peers in the general population;
  • Allows young people to remain in a nurturing family environment where they can mature and develop, prepare for independence, and receive on-going support; and
  • Offers continuity and stability to facilitate engagement in education, employment or training.

The amendment was introduced by Ann Coffey MP who said:

“Local authorities have a duty in care planning guidance to ensure that young people leave their foster care when they are ready and not before, but in 2011-12 only 320 young people -5% - remained with their foster carers after they reached age 18. Research shows that the longer a young person can stay with a foster family, the more successful they are later.

“In 2008, the Labour Government set up a “staying put” pilot to assess the benefits of allowing children to stay in care and with foster carers. The pilot reported in 2012 and found that established family relationships and stability make a positive difference to young people in care as they become adults.

“Cost must of course be a calculation, but it is minimal. Loughborough University calculated that on average it cost only £17,500 per local authority per year. There will be a far bigger public cost in providing services to a future generation of failing parents, or in helping young people through drug and alcohol addiction.”

Reports from the study, which was funded by the Department for Education, can be found online.