We report on a new legal duty that requires local authorities to provide financial support to young people who wish to stay with their foster family until they are aged 21.
At 31 March 2013 there were 68,110 children ‘looked after’ in this country. That represented an increase of 2 per cent on 31 March 2012 figures and an increase of 12 per cent compared to 31 March 2009. The number of looked after children is now higher than at any point since 1985. 50,900 of these children were cared for in a foster placement. Most young people now aged 19 years who were looked after when aged 16 years are now accommodated in independent living arrangements. There were only 330 young people living with their former foster carers, this represents 5 per cent of this cohort of young people and is a similar figure to 2012.
On 04 December 2013 the Children and Families Minister announced a new legal duty on Local Authorities to provide financial support for every young person who wants to stay with their foster parents until their 21st birthday – giving Local Authorities £40 million over the next three years to put the support arrangements in place. ‘ It is hoped that this will allow 10,000 young people leaving stable and secure homes to make the transition from care to independence when they are ready rather than when their council tells them to,’ said Edward Timpson, Children and Families Minister – and experienced foster carer himself.
Children in care often have much lower educational outcomes and are more likely to be out of education, work and training. At the current time once legally adult, at age 18, young children can no longer be in care and therefore cannot be fostered. A new clause in the Children and Families Bill should give young people the chance to remain with their foster carers until they feel able to move to independence rather than when they reach a pre-determined age limit.
In addition the government has announced that:
- Over 120 Local Authorities have now signed up to a ‘Charter for Care leavers’ – a contract between young people and Local Authorities that sets out the support that they can expect to receive up until the age of 25.
- There are also now 40,000 savings accounts for care leavers with a £200 contribution from Government.
It has written to all Local Authorities asking them to improve financial support for care leavers, in particular via the Setting Up Home allowance.
- The ‘Care Leaver Strategy’ sets out the housing and health services, the justice system and educational institutions that are in place to support care leavers to live independently once they leave foster care.
- Ofsted’s Local Authority Children’s Services inspection framework will place an extra emphasis on the outcome of care leavers by publishing an annual data pack outlining statistics on care leavers’ status.
Care leavers are often some of the most vulnerable young people in society. It is the intention of the government to attempt to ensure that services are integrated, simplified and that care leavers are treated with respect and dignity. The Ministry of Justice and the Home Office recognise that young adults who have been in care can be particularly vulnerable as they transition into adulthood, at risk of being drawn into crime or becoming a victim of it. It is therefore to be championed that these young people are able to leave care when they feel ready, and that even then, they remain able to access support from the foster parents with whom they have lived.
So, if you are looking for solicitors in North Devon specialising in care proceedings with a detailed understanding of the law relating to foster care then give us a call on freephone 0333 888 0404 or email us at [email protected]