Leaving Foster Care

When a young person reaches the age of 18, any Care Order is automatically revoked, and they are no longer considered to be “looked after”. However, Foster carers play an important part in ensuring that young people are prepared for the move to independence or by continuing to support them after the age of 18 through supported lodgings and other schemes, such as Shared Lives and Staying Put.

Arrangements for young people leaving care at the age of 18 vary according to where they live in the UK and it is important to be aware of the guidance and policies that apply to them. It is also important that foster carers understand the implications of changes to their financial arrangements if they continue to care for a young person after the age of 18.

Some young people prefer to move to independent living and foster carers play an important role in supporting young people as they begin this transition. Other schemes are briefly discussed below, with links to organisations that can provide further information and support.

Planning Transition to Adulthood for Care Leavers

Staying Put – Regulations and Guidance

The age of leaving home among the population as a whole is rising and the transition to adulthood is becoming increasingly complex. Children looked after often leave care to become independent before the age of 18. Research and evidence highlights that where children in care experience an extended transition more akin to their peers, outcomes improve and the experience is more normative.

The Planning Transition to Adulthood for Care Leavers Regulations and Guidance 2010 and the Fostering Regulations and Guidance 2011 (Children Act 1989) both require local authorities to have a Staying Put policy. The Staying Put policy should set out the practical, financial, tax and benefit issues (for both the foster carer and the child) which impact on the decision to extend foster care as Staying Put care when a looked after child reaches the age of 18 years.

Recent Guidance issued by the DfE, sets out the Department for Education, HM Revenue and Customs and the Department for Work and Pensions (DfE, HMRC and DWP) frameworks that local authorities must be aware of, and take account of, when developing a local Staying Put policy.

The work undertaken across the DfE, HMRC and DWP to produce the guidance has enabled changes to be made within HMRC that has aligned the tax rules across foster carer and Staying Put carer. Work with DWP has ensured that the local authority payments (Section 23) made to Staying Put carers are disregarded when calculating a carer’s entitlement to benefit. Other elements of the work, which have been included in the guidance, have been to clarify the complex benefit and tax rules in regard to Staying Put arrangements. The final element of the work and guidance has been to set out the different safeguarding frameworks in regard to Staying Put young people remaining in arrangements where foster children live, and in situations where the Staying Put young person is the only young person living with their carer.

The primary aim of the guidance, and the requirement for local authorities to develop a local Staying Put policy, is to ensure arrangements are in place that can enable a young person’s foster care placement to be extended beyond their 18th birthday. Staying Put will enable young people to experience a transition from care to independence and adulthood that is similar to that which most young people experience, is based on need and not on age alone.

What foster carers and young people need to know

Staying Put arrangements are exactly as the title suggests. It is an arrangement or an agreement between the local authority, the current foster carer and the young person that wishes to remain within their fostered home.

The plan (Pathway Plan) assessing the needs of the young person as they move towards independence should begin when the young person reaches 16 years. If staying put is an option then it should be included in reviews and recorded in the pathway plan.

The Local authority has a duty to support staying put arrangements unless the arrangement is not consistent with the young person’s welfare.

The role of the local authority is as follows:

  • Explain the intricacies of what staying put is by giving advice and explaining how it can benefit the young person
  • Explain the intricacies of what staying put is and the effect it will have on the carer’s (former foster carer) financial support. Financial support will still be available but will be different to what the carer received as a foster carer
  • Provide training to the carer
  • Monitor the placement, but the placement is not governed by fostering regulations as the young person leaves care at 18 years
  • If you have a young person approaching 16 or over you may find the following guidance written by Catch 22 NCAS of help to them when thinking about their transition into independence
  • Staying put for the young person leaving care produced by Catch 22 NACS
  • Also information on young people leaving care produced by Catch 22 NCAS
  • Know Your Right Know Your Benefits
  • Further details and a link to the full guidance document can be found at staying put arrangements for care leavers 18 years and above

What is the difference between a Staying Put arrangement and foster care?

Foster PlacementStaying Put Arrangement
Young person under 18Over 18 legally an adult arrangements are supported by the local authority until 21
Young person is in the care of the local authority within a placementArrangement between two adults
Young person has a care plan setting out parameters expected of the young person and the foster carerThe arrangement is an agreement between essentially two adults. It is advisable to draw up a living together agreement. The format will vary for each arrangement
Foster carer will receive an allowance to cover the costs of care for the young personCarer will receive a reduced allowance with contributions likely from the young person from either allowances benefits or earnings
Local authority will cover benefits entitled to the young person such as child benefit in the payment made to the foster carer. The young person will be to apply for relevant benefits such as housing benefits etc
Foster carer can’t claim child benefitPersonal advisor should make the young person aware of their entitlements
Placement governed by fostering regulationsNo regulation to govern the arrangement but fostering regulation will have an influence if the carer continues their role in fostering
Young person is not subject to a DBS check but care plan may advise no other children to be placed into the foster homeA DBS check will be required if the home has children living there
Offences committed by the young person in placement may be subject to an assessment to evaluate if the risks can be managed in placementOffences present on a DBS check of the young person may prevent the carer continuing as a foster carer for other children
Foster carer will receive money to enable the young person to celebrate their birthday or significant religious festival (e.g Christmas) and also receive a holiday allowanceDiscretion of the local authority will determine if the carer will continue to receive these payments or if the young person will receive them direct.

Things to consider when thinking about Staying Put

Transition to staying put carer only

Constraints on the role of fostering may occur when a foster carer enters into a staying put arrangement. The household may not have the space to continue to foster etc. If the decision is that the foster care no longer wishes to foster then they are free to submit their resignation to the fostering service and their registration will automatically cease 28 days after it is received by the service.

Transition to staying put carer and continuation of foster carer

The young person will no longer be a looked after child and will be classed as another adult within the fostering home.  The foster carer would be able to take in another foster placement within the terms of their approval but may not always be possible or appropriate due to lack of accommodation or the terms of the staying put arrangement.  A review of the foster carers approval should be undertaken as some aspects of the young person remaining in the foster home may impact. If the staying put carer wishes to remain as a foster carer and wishes to return to fostering in the future, then if the fostering service agrees, statutory requirements must be maintained. The carer would be subject to regular supervising social worker visits and an annual, unannounced visit.

DBS checks

Once the young person becomes 18 they are an adult in the eyes of the law and would be treated as another adult within the fostering home so would be subject to an enhanced disclosure from the Disclosure and Baring Service (DBS) as regulation 26(2) Fostering Services (England) Regulations 2011. Although this should not present any surprises the foster carer would be bound under their fostering agreement to notify the fostering service of any circumstances which may affect the fostering household such as any criminal offences committed by the young person etc.

Financial support for Staying Put arrangements

Financial support must be provided to staying put carers but will depend on the individual needs and circumstances but the local authority should pay former foster carers an allowance that will cover all reasonable costs of supporting the care leaver in order for them to remain in their foster home.

Statutory guidance suggests that the previous fostering allowance paid by the fostering service prior to the young person becoming 18 (as this is required to cover the full cost of caring for the child, Children Act 1989 Guidance and Regulations Volume 4: Fostering services, paragraph 5.71) but taking into account any financial contribution made by the young person from employment, benefits or other sources as an applicable financial support.

Considerations for Staying Put carers:

  • Amount to be paid
  • When payment will cease
  • Any review of payments
  • What the payment is expected to cover
  • Any additional discretionary payments
  • What contribution (if any) the young person is expected to make
  • Whether any allowance paid to the carer is to transfer to the young person
  • What happens if the young person is temporarily away from the home e.g.  university or holiday
  • What happens if there is a temporary loss of the young person’s entitlements
  • How payments will affect benefit entitlements and tax liabilities

Financial support for Care Leavers

As a care leaver you should be getting financial assistance to help on your road to independence. The table below outlines the financial support which care leavers are entitled to receive.

 What is it?Who is it for?What can I use it For?Where can I find out more?
Leaving Care Grant / Setting up home allowanceA grant given to young people leaving care to help them set up home.All care leavers.To help buy the essentials you need when setting up home and moving to independence.Speak to your local authority about the amount they give.

If your authority is not giving this much, you may want to raise it as an issue at your next CICC. (children in care council)
Junior ISAs
Long term tax-tax free savings accounts for children.Have I got a Junior ISA? If you don't know ask your social worker and/or IRO.You can only take out money from your Junior ISA when you turn 18.On the Share foundation website:

You should also ask your local authority whether an account has been opened in your name (if it has you should have been informed).
Prince's TrustDevelopment Loans of up to £500.You must be 16-25 and not at university yet - so this is only for prospective students.To fund childcare costs to help you attend a college course, buy equipment, materials or tools, pay for travel costs to a work placement, training course or job. It will not fund university tuition fees. For more information please visit: Princes Trust
The Care Leavers' Foundation Trust FundA small grants scheme for care leavers aged up to 29.Care leavers aged up to 29.To help with personal development needs, crisis payments, education, training or employment needs.You can download the application from the CLG website here: CLG Application
From Care2WorkPartnership between local authorities' leaving care services and employers, coordinated by Catch22/NCAS to create work opportunities for care leavers.All care leavers looking for employment opportunities.To create work opportunities for care leavers. Speak to your Leaving care Personal Advisor o an Employ-ability Worker about what's available in your area.

More information is available on the Catch22 website: Catch22 from care to work
National Citizenship service (NCS)NCS is an once-in-a-lifetime oportunity that enables you to take part in social action projects which will require time away from home.It is open to all 16 & 17 year olds in England and Northern Ireland.NCS helps you build your skills for work and life, while you take on new challenges and meet new friends.Just fill out a few details on their website: National Citizen Service
Prince's Trust "Team" ProgrammeA 12-week personal development course.Young people aged 16 - 25.It offers work experience, qualifications, practical skills, community projects and a residential week.You can find out more from the Princes Trust website: Team Programme
Independent VisitorA volunteer who supports and lends a listening ear to a young person who has little or no contact with their family.Young people in care who want someone to speak to and hang out with.For companionship, support and friendship to help build a young person's confidence.Ask your social worker and IRO for an independent visitor if you want one. Find out more here: Independent Visitor

Benefits for Care Leavers

Former relevant children who have a liability to pay rent can claim housing Benefit, subject to the usual entitlement conditions. The payment of rent must be on a commercial basis and not contrived, a licence agreement would have to be made, detailing the costs broken down into rent, support, utilities and food.

Payments made to a staying put carer by a local authority under section 23C of the Children Act 1989 are to be disregarded when calculating any entitlement to benefits but other payments such as housing benefits claimed by the young person would be considered as income.

Catch 22 NCAS has a guide to benefits entitlement for young people in and from care.

Shared Lives Carers

The term Shared Lives Carers is used to cover arrangements under a “specific social care scheme” and covers Adult Placement Carers, Kinship Carers, Staying Put Carers  and Parents & Child arrangements. Follow the link to an easy online step by step explanation of tax specifically for Shared Lives Carers. The guide is written and produced by the HMRC as an e-learning tool.

Tax for Shared Lives carers learning tool

Pathway Plans

Transition into adulthood is not a one-off process triggered by a significant birthday but is a process of natural development. As the child gets older the care plan should reflect the movement towards adulthood. Local authority has a duty under section 19BA of the Children Act 1989, inserted by section 98 of the Children and Families Act 2014 to consider the possibility of staying put when undertaking the assessment of the young person’s needs within three months of their 16th birthday.

The pathway plan should include if a staying put arrangement is being considered even if no commitment has been formalised.

Planning and Pathway Plans

Young people living away from home (University)

Staying put arrangements are not excluded from young people that are living away from home on a temporary basis.

This includes young people in further education in a residential situation, undertaking training for employment or the armed services, but is not limited to these situations alone.  Whilst these situations exist it may result in a reduced allowance being paid to the carer but it should cover all reasonable costs to enable the carer to continue supporting the young person.

Disabled young people

Staying put is not intended to replace the process whereby disabled young people who meet the criteria transfer to adult care services such as “Shared Lives” placements. A shared lives placement with the young person’s previous foster carer could fulfil the local authority’s duty to provide support under staying put.

Young people subject to special guardianship order

Young people under SGO are entitled to advice and support from the age of 16 until they are 21 if they were looked after immediately prior to the SGO being made. Local authorities can pay a special guardianship allowance in respect to a young person over 18 if they complete a course of full time education or training.

The young person will not qualify for support under the staying put policy. Foster carers should be made aware of this when applying for SGO by the local authority.

Supported Lodgings

Supported Lodgings provide vulnerable young people with places to live in the homes of local people. These might be the same people who fostered the young person when they were “looked after” or they might have been specifically recruited to be Supported Lodgings carers. These hosts/carers are assessed, vetted and trained for the role.

Most of the young people are aged 16 to 21, but exceptionally some may need support up to 24. Young people generally spend a maximum of two years living with their hosts/carers, from whom they receive significant practical and emotional support. Supported Lodgings schemes provide family-based support to young people to help them to develop the confidence and capability to live independently.

Currently there are 113 schemes registered in the database of the Supported Lodgings Project in England.

Whilst such Supported Lodgings schemes provide substantial individual support, young people who require a higher degree of support and possibly personal care (perhaps due to medical conditions or disabilities which will prevent them from becoming fully independent in the longer term) may be eligible for Shared Lives (formerly adult placement) schemes.

Supported Lodgings have been developed as an accommodation option in recognition of the evidence that, when an alternative to foster care is needed, a supportive domestic environment is more suitable for some young people than other forms of accommodation such as foyers, hostels and rented housing.

Payments to hosts/carers

The payments received by Supported Lodgings hosts/carers constitute a combination of rent and payment for the provision of support. These can be broken down into rent, service charges, support costs and food/meals. Payments to Supported Lodgings hosts/carers may be derived from Supported Lodgings schemes, from Children’s Services Departments or from Supporting People.

In addition it is common practice that young people contribute to the cost of their Supported Lodgings including payment of housing benefit.

For further information about Supported Lodgings visit the website of the National Care Advisory Service, which is a national advice, support and development service focusing on young people’s transition from care. NCAS is supported by national charity Catch22.


Leaving Care through the eyes of a previously looked after young person

Finding My Way is an award winning animated documentary about the challenges and expectations of leaving local authority care. It was created by young care leavers in Cambridgeshire in August 2013.

colaboration image
© 2013 University of Cambridge, Department of Psychiatry/Cambridgeshire Film Consortium. All rights reserved.

(a collaboration between the University of Cambridge and the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust in partnership with a wide range of Cambridgeshire and East Anglian Health and Service Providers).



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