Following Newswatch's article yesterday about twelve child care charities lobbying the Government to change foster care rules, the Children's Minister, Kevin Brennan, has responded by announcing further financial information about ten pilot areas.
Young people will be given the chance to stay on in their foster families beyond the age of 18, thanks to the new £5 million pilot programme, Staying Put.
The pilots are part of the Government's Care Matters reform programme to improve the experiences and outcomes for children in care.
Each area will be given a share of almost £5 million for the Staying Put pilots, which will give children in care the chance to benefit from a stable family placement so that they only move to independent living when they feel properly prepared and ready. This will allow children in care to make the transition to adulthood in a more gradual way, just like other young people who rely on their families for this type of support.
Kevin Brennan, Parliamentary Undersecretary for Children said: "Children in care have told us that they want the same sort of stability that other children have and some of them need help and support beyond the age of 18 in order to make the transition into adulthood.
"On average, young people don't leave home until they are 24. Given the poor outcomes that children in care have historically had, it is important that these young people get the support they need to remain in employment, education or training. They shouldn't have to cope on their own when they have to make big decisions about their future."
However, the charities argue that the time for pilot projects is over and the Government should implement a national scheme immediately. The Government also launched its Young Runaways Action Plan. Running away is particularly prevalent where a young person has been placed in care and has problems in the contact arrangements with family and friends. The Children and Young Persons Bill includes provisions to improve how children are matched to care placements, thereby ensuring that they get the support they need as soon as they are placed, so that it will be far less likely that they might run away.
The Staying Put Pilots will help develop a better understanding of the possible practical and financial barriers that could arise, where foster carers provide support to young adults from a care background. These could involve such issues as legal insurance and the tax status of these carers.
There will be an independent evaluation of the pilots, which will run from July 2008 to March 2011.
The chosen local authorities for the Staying Put pilot are: Bristol; Cheshire; Dorset; Lincolnshire; Merton; Northamptonshire; North Tyneside; North Yorkshire; Warwickshire and York.