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W3C Compliance

7.6.4 Staying Put Policy

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

This policy is consistent with, and takes account of, Staying Put - Arrangements for Care Leavers Aged 18 and Above to Stay on With Their Former Foster Carers - Government Guidance issued by the DfE, DWP and HMRC (2013); The Children Act 1989 Guidance and Regulations Volume 3: Planning Transition to Adulthood for Care Leavers.

STATUTORY GUIDANCE

The Children’s Partnership, Staying Put: Good practice guide (2014)

HM Government, ‘Staying Put’ – Arrangements for Care Leavers aged 18 and above to stay on with their former foster carers, DfE, DWP and HMRC Guidance (May 2013)

DfE, The Children Act 1989 guidance and regulations – Volume 3: planning transition to adulthood for care leavers, (January 2015)

AMENDMENT

This chapter was amended in November 2016 in Section 5.8, Insurance (Including Liability and Household Insurance) to reflect that foster carers no longer have insurance and cover for ‘liability’ through Fostering Network or CoramBaaf.


Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Criteria for Continuing a Fostering Placement as a Staying Put Arrangement
  3. Planning
  4. Legal Status and Safeguarding
  5. Financial Arrangements
  6. Ending of Staying Put Arrangements


1. Introduction

The Children (Leaving Care) Act 2000 recommended the conversion of foster placement of children in care at age 18 into supported lodgings arrangements. The Planning Transitions to Adulthood for Care Leavers (Regulations and Guidance) 2010, the Fostering Service (England) Regulations 2011 (Children Act 1989) and the National Minimum Standards for Fostering Services 2011 all required local authorities to have Staying Put procedures in place.

Joint guidance was issued in May 2013 from Department for Education (DfE), Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and Her Majesty’s Revenues and Customs (HMRC) in respect of arrangements where young people aged 18+ years could remain living with their former foster carers (see HM Government, ‘Staying Put’ – Arrangements for Care Leavers aged 18 and above to stay on with their former foster carers, DfE, DWP and HMRC Guidance (May 2013)).

The Children and Families Act 2014 places a legal duty on local authorities to support every care leaver who wants to stay with their former foster carers until their 21st birthday.

A Staying Put arrangement is where a Former Relevant child, after ceasing to be Looked After, remains in the former foster home where they were placed immediately before they ceased to be Looked After, beyond the age of 18.

It is the duty of the local authority:

  • To monitor the Staying Put arrangement; and
  • To provide advice, assistance and support to the Former Relevant child and the former foster parent with a view to maintaining the Staying Put arrangement (this must include financial support), until the child reaches the age of 21 (unless the local authority consider that the Staying Put arrangement is not consistent with the child’s welfare).

Under the Care Leavers (England) Regulations 2010, Planning Transition into Adulthood for Care Leavers Guidance and Government Staying Put Guidance (2013), the Local Authority must provide information about extending placements beyond the age of 18. 

The intention of Staying Put arrangements is to ensure that young people can remain with their former foster carers until they are prepared for adulthood, can experience a transition akin to their peers, avoid social exclusion and be more likely to avert a subsequent housing and tenancy breakdown.

(Note that the term ‘arrangement’ should be used rather than ‘placement’ - the term ‘placement’ denotes a situation where the local authority arranged and placed the child with a foster carer. Once the child reaches the age of eighteen and legal adulthood, the local authority is no longer making a placement, but facilitating a Staying Put arrangement for the young person.)

Consideration will need to be given to the impact on foster carers' approval and their terms of approval, including the numbers approved for, and whether this number includes the Staying Put young person.


2. Criteria for Continuing a Fostering Placement as a Staying Put Arrangement

There are no eligibility criteria for entering into a staying put arrangement, other than the young person being an ‘Eligible child’ for care leaver support. If on the day before their 18th birthday the young person was a looked after child placed with a foster carer, and had been looked after for at least 13 weeks since the age of 14, then by continuing to live with their former foster carers this constitutes a staying put arrangement. This applies whether the foster placement was long term or short term, and includes placements made at any time up to the young person’s 18th birthday.


3. Planning

The Leaving Care Assessment of Need undertaken at the age of 15 ¾ should determine whether it would be appropriate to provide advice, assistance and support to facilitate a Staying Put arrangement. Where they determine that it would be appropriate, and where the child and the local authority foster parent wish to make a Staying Put arrangement, then the local authority must provide such advice, assistance and support to facilitate a Staying Put arrangement.

The following issues should be considered as part of the ongoing Pathway Planning process to ensure that there is a clear understanding in place for all:

  • Will the young person fit the ‘Staying Put’ criteria by the time they reach their 18th birthday?
  • Is the young person in agreement with the ‘Staying Put’ proposal?
  • Is the carer in agreement with the ‘Staying Put’ proposal?
  • Does the young person and the their foster carer understand the criteria for and procedures associated with converting a foster placement into a ‘Staying Put’ arrangement?
  • Does the young person understand their financial and benefit responsibilities associated with being in a ‘Staying Put’ arrangement?
  • Does the foster carer understand the impact of a ‘Staying Put’ arrangement on their income tax and welfare benefits?
  • What is the contingency plan should the ‘Staying Put’ arrangement not be a viable option?

To ensure that sufficient time is given to planning for the ‘Staying Put’ arrangement a professionals meeting should take place when the young person is 16 ½. The ‘Staying Put’ meeting should include the foster carer, supervision social worker, young person’s social worker and the assistant team manager. If the child is in an agency foster placement then a representative from the Access to Resources Team should also attend the meeting. The purpose of the meeting will be to establish the viability and likelihood of a ‘Staying Put’ arrangement occurring. The meeting should agree and allocate key tasks that need to be undertaken to progress the ‘Staying Put’ arrangements.

The ‘Staying Put’ arrangements should also be an agenda item at the young persons looked after statutory review from the age of 16.

The ‘Staying Put’ meeting will be reconvened as and when required depending on the complexity of the case. A minimum requirement is that a second meeting is convened when the young person reaches the age of 17 ½. This meeting should ensure that all final arrangements are in place by the young person’s 18th birthday.

A key aspect of this meeting will be to ensure that National Insurance, Income Tax and Welfare Benefits issues for the foster carers, and Welfare Benefits issues for the young people have been considered and are understood by all parties. In preparation for the meeting there should have been a meeting regarding the young person’s financial position with the Benefits Maximisation Officer in the 14+ Team.

The young person’s Pathway Plan should set out all of the practical arrangements regarding the young person remaining as a young adult in the Staying Put arrangement. It should set out the ‘ground rules’ of the household as well as the areas of responsibility that all parties to the arrangement are expected to fulfil. Many of these will be an extension of the expectations on them when they were a foster child. This will cover arrangements such as:

  • Preparation for adulthood and independence tasks;
  • Finance, including young people having credit cards, loan agreements and mobile phone contracts registered at the address;
  • Income and benefit claims;
  • Friends and partners visiting and staying at the address;
  • Staying away for nights/weekends and informing carers of movements;
  • Education, training and employment activities;
  • Health arrangements;
  • Move-on arrangements;
  • Issues related to younger foster care children in the placement, i.e. safeguarding, being a positive role model and time-keeping.


4. Legal Status and Safeguarding

Following the young person's 18th birthday, the legal basis on which they occupy the property (former foster home) changes (the legal term is that the young person becomes an 'excluded licensee' lodging in the home) - this should not denote that the young person will be treated differently than they were as a fostered child. In addition, the carer may also become, and be deemed, the young person’s landlord/landlady.

The associated change from foster child to adult member of the household, and for the carer from foster carer to Staying Put carer, (technically the young person’s landlord) should be carefully and sensitively planned in order to ensure that both young people and the carer/s understand the nature of the arrangement and that the positive aspects of being in foster care are not diminished by the new legal and financial arrangements and terminology.

Where Foster Children are Living in the Staying Put Arrangement

Where fostered children are living in the household, the checks and requirements associated with fostering legislation will apply and will provide a framework for safeguarding and checking arrangements for the whole household.

In these situations the carer must remain an approved foster carer and the Fostering Services (England) Regulations and Guidance will apply with the consequential requirements of supervision, review and safeguarding. Whilst the fostering legislation will primarily apply to the placements of the fostered children, it does ensure that a system of approval, checking and supervision is applied to the whole household.

Additionally, where foster children are in placement, the foster carers will need to be returned to the fostering and adoption panel due to a change in circumstances as the child/young person Staying Put will have reached adulthood and become an adult member of the fostering household.

Young people remaining in a foster care household at the age of eighteen will become adult members of the household and will require a valid Disclosure and Barring Service check in settings where a foster child or foster children are living. To ensure that the check (and possible subsequent risk assessment) is completed by the young person’s eighteenth birthday the process will need to commence in sufficient time.

Where No Foster Children are Living in the Staying Put Arrangement

From the age of eighteen, young people are no longer legally ‘in care’ or ‘looked after’, and therefore fostering arrangements and legislation relating to children placed with foster carers no longer apply. Whilst legislation relating to fostering will no longer apply (if no foster child remains in the household), key standards should continue to govern the expectations of the Staying Put arrangement. This should include:

  • A return to the fostering and adoption panel if a person’s approval as a foster carer should be ended and adherence to the deregistration/termination process in circumstances where the foster carer is unlikely to be caring for any further foster children in the future;
  • An annual review of the Staying Put arrangement and carer/s to ensure that the arrangement complies with local authority expectations;
  • Disclosure and Barring Service Checks on all adult members of the household, regular visitors and children of the carers aged sixteen and older;
  • Health and safety requirements (as a minimum this should comply with landlord and licensee/tenant requirements);
  • Regular supervision and support from their fostering supervising social worker;
  • Opportunities to attend appropriate training.

In circumstances where it is clear that the carer will not be fostering any further children, it may be deemed appropriate to terminate their approval as a foster carer. In situations where it is possible that they may foster again in the future, it would be inappropriate to terminate their approval; given the length of time that re-approval would take. Where a foster carer’s approval is terminated, the local authority will need to ensure that the Staying Put arrangement continues to meet appropriate standards.


5. Financial Arrangements

5.1 In House Foster Carers

Prior to 18th birthday

When they reach their 17th birthday, all permanently placed young people should be given a regular agreed allowance with clear guidelines about what this is to cover. This is designed to help young people to learn to live within a budget and to understand the value of money.

This allowance should be given to the young person by the foster carer from the allowance payments made to them. The amount and areas covered by this should be decided by the young person and foster carer, in discussion with the young person’s social worker. However the allowance should not be greater than the expected benefit level as it is important for young people to understand that they may be required to live on a limited budget.

Some young people will struggle with this initially and will need the opportunity to make mistakes in a safe environment, with a foster carer to support and help them. Young people may spend their allowance all at once or be unable to understand the importance of being able to budget on a limited income. The expectation is that foster carers will help and support the young person so that once they reach the age of 18, they will have developed skills in this area.

Post 18

Where a young person is in the final year of a full time course of secondary education, the Foster Carer Payments will continue at the current level until the end of that academic year.

For all other young people who wish to remain with their foster carer under a “Staying Put” agreement when they reach 18, the following would apply:

  1. Foster carers will receive the total allowance element of the foster carer payments for any young person who is remaining in their care under a “Staying Put” arrangement. For most carers, this allowance will be made up from a variety of sources.
    • Where a young person is eligible to claim benefits, they should do so;
    • Any Housing Benefit a young person receives will be paid to the carer and the amount will be deducted from the allowance paid to the carer;
    • The young person should make a contribution from their benefits to their living costs. This is part of their preparation for independent living and should be agreed and reviewed as part of the Pathway Planning process. This amount will be deducted from the carer’s allowance;
    • If a young person is in employment, a weekly agreed amount should be paid to the carer. This should be agreed and reviewed as part of the Pathway Planning process and will be deducted from the carer’s allowance;
    • Merton will ensure that payment is made for any shortfall as a result of these contributions, up to the amount of the allowance element of the foster carer payments.
  2. Contributions towards the allowances will be agreed and regularly reviewed as part of the Pathway Planning process;
  3. HMRC Advice sheet HS236 - Qualifying care relief: Foster carers, adult placement carers, kinship carers and staying put carers (2014) gives advice about any potential tax issues for foster carers as a result of moving into a Staying Put arrangement;
  4. When a young person leaves Staying Put placement in a planned way, foster carers will be paid a nominal sum of £30 per month for a period of 6 months, to offer on-going support to the young person for whom they cared. This will involve maintain a regular contact with the young person, including inviting them back to the foster home for meals etc. and may involve responding to emergencies/crises in the young person’s life.

5.2 Independent Fostering Agency Carers

Prior to 18th Birthday

With the agency support, foster carers should be encouraged to give young people permanently placed in their care a regular agreed allowance with clear guidelines about what this is to cover. This is designed to help young people to learn to live within a budget and to understand the value of money.

As with in house foster placements, the amount and areas covered by this should be decided by the young person and foster carer, in discussion with the young person’s social worker. However the allowance should not be greater than the expected benefit level as it is important for young people to understand that they may be required to live on a limited budget.

Some young people will struggle with this initially and will need the opportunity to make mistakes in a safe environment, with a foster carer to support and help them. Young people may spend their allowance all at once or be unable to understand the importance of being able to budget on a limited income. The expectation is that foster carers will help and support the young person so that once they reach the age of 18, they will have developed skills in this area.

Post 18

Where a young person is in the final year of a full time course of secondary education, the Fostering Agency Payments will continue at the current level until the end of that academic year

For all other young people who wish to remain with their IFA foster carer under a “Staying Put” agreement when they reach 18, the following would apply:

  1. Where there has been agreement for a young person to remain in placement past their 18th birthday the allowance element of the Merton foster carer payment will be paid to the agency for the foster carer;
  2. There will be no adjustment to the amount paid by Merton if a young person is in receipt of Housing Benefit or is making any direct contributions to the carer;
  3. The fostering agency will be responsible for giving any advice on benefits or tax to their carers

Holiday arrangements:

  1. When a young person wishes to return to a foster placement for holiday periods whilst they are on a course of higher education, they will not be eligible to claim Housing Benefit;
  2. In this instance, Merton will pay the allowance element of the foster carer payments on a pro rata basis for any young person who is returning to the care of their previous foster carer under a “Staying Put” arrangement;
  3. If a young person is in employment a weekly agreed amount should be paid to the carer. This should be reviewed as part of the Pathway Planning process and will be deducted from the carer’s allowance.

5.3 Housing Benefit/Universal Credit

  1. All young people are expected to claim Housing Benefit from their 18th birthday. Any Housing Benefit a young person receives will be paid to the carer and the amount will then be deducted from the allowance paid to the carer;
  2. In exceptional situations where a young person is not eligible to claim Housing Benefit, consideration will be given to Merton Children’s Services paying the rent/accommodation element of the “Staying Put” arrangement.

5.4 Housing Benefit for Young People

From the age of 18 young people can claim help from Housing Benefit towards their rent where there is a liability to pay rent on a commercial basis.

Where meals are provided within the “Staying Put” arrangement, the method used to calculate the level of Housing Benefit is the 1996 Housing Benefit maximum rent rules relating to ‘Boarder’ arrangements. The amount payable will be set by the Local Rent Officer who will provide a Local Reference Rent or a Claim Related Rent. The lowest of these will be used to work out the amount of help given with their rent, less an amount for meals.

Young People are able to claim Housing Benefit even when their “Staying Put” carer/s are in receipt of Housing Benefit themselves. However, where carers are in receipt of benefits themselves, the non-section 23C element of the overall allowance will be counted as income from the “Staying Put” arrangement; this non-section 23C element will be treated as income from a ‘Boarder’. Section 23C money is the element of the payment paid from the local authority fostering service; the non section 23C portion is all of the other elements, some of these other elements may still be paid through the local authority fostering service, for example, where housing benefit for the young person is paid directly to the local authority.

As fostering regulations cease when a child reaches the age of 18 the primary framework governing these arrangements is tenure law. Young people are deemed excluded occupiers on a license.

The standard letter (Appendix 2: Standard “Staying Put” Arrangement - Housing Benefit Claim Letter) should be issued and signed by the “Staying Put” carer as evidence of the young person’s liability to pay rent and is used as the license agreement in circumstances where a young person is expected to claim Housing Benefit. The letter sets out the full costs of the arrangement broken down into:

  • Rent;
  • Support;
  • Utilities;
  • Food/Meals.

5.4 Council Tax and Council Tax Benefit

  1. From April 2013 Council Tax Benefit has been replaced by Council Tax Support schemes that reflect individual local authority priorities and are administered through local rules;
  2. The impact of the “Staying Put” arrangement on “Staying Put” carers Council Tax and Council Tax Support will depend on both the circumstances of the “Staying Put” carer and the young person. For example, full time students are ‘invisible’ for Council Tax purposes and will not have any impact on the “Staying Put” carers Council Tax or Council Tax Support;
  3. In circumstances where a “Staying Put” carer is working and in receipt of the 25% single person Council Tax reduction, this discount may continue when a “Staying Put” young person is living in the arrangement. The continuation of the 25% discount will depend on the circumstances of the young person;
  4. Where “Staying Put” young people are claiming a means tested benefit, a Non-dependent Deduction should not be applied to the “Staying Put” carers own means tested benefit claim;
  5. When planning for a “Staying Put” arrangement, consideration should be given to the impact of the arrangement on the “Staying Put” carers Council Tax, Council Tax Support and whether a Non-dependent Deduction will be applied. In circumstances where an increase in Council Tax occurs; a reduction in Council Tax Support applies, or a Non-dependent Deduction is applied an application should be made to HARP for a payment from section 23C equivalent to the carers financial loss;
  6. “Staying Put” young people will not incur an ‘Under Occupancy’ or bedroom tax charge on the “Staying Put” carers;
  7. Where a young person is living in a ‘Staying Put’ arrangement with two or more adults who are not in receipt of Council Tax Benefit and who pay full Council Tax a ‘Staying Put’ young person will not have any impact on the Council Tax liability. If the young person is claiming benefits they should submit a claim for Council Tax Benefit for administrative purposes.

5.5. Income Tax and National Insurance Issues for “Staying Put” Arrangements

Where young people remain living with their former foster carer/s under a “Staying Put” arrangement, the Income Tax and National Insurance rules that apply are set out in the ‘Shared Lives Carers’ - ‘Qualifying Care Relief’ Guidance.

The ‘Shared Lives Carers’ - ‘Qualifying Care Relief Guidance’ sets out that “Staying Put” carers receive tax exemptions up to a given ‘qualifying amount’ for each “Staying Put” young person living with them. The “Staying Put” qualifying rate mirrors the system and amounts that applied when the placement was previously a foster care placement.

“Staying Put” carers will be covered by the Qualifying Care Relief system where they provide a “Staying Put” arrangement for a young person who was looked after immediately prior to the young person’s 18th birthday. Qualifying Care Relief can continue until the young person reaches the age of 21, or, until they complete a programme of education or training being undertaken on their 21st birthday.

The Qualifying Care Relief system provides for foster carer/s and/or “Staying Put” carer/s to earn up to a given amount without paying Income Tax or Class 4 National Insurance Contributions on their caring income. The Income Tax free allowance consists of two elements. Firstly, a fixed amount per foster care or “Staying Put” household per year (for 2014 -2015 this is set at £10,000). Secondly, an additional amount per week per child (£200 per week under the age of eleven (0-10), £250 per week age eleven to their eighteenth birthday (11-17) 2014-2015) and £250 per week per adult aged eighteen to the twenty-first birthday (18-20) or until the end of the programme of education or training, as defined as “Staying Put” by HMRC.

The £10,000 per year applies once per household regardless of how many foster children or “Staying Put” young people are placed. The additional amount applies per child/young person per week. Where there is more than one paid “Staying Put” carer in the household, the allowance is shared equally by both carers.

The tax free allowance is only available to households with three or fewer placements. However, foster care placements are excluded for this purpose, and sibling groups are counted as one placement.

The tax free allowance only applies to the “Staying Put” carer’s income from caring. If they have income from other sources, they will pay tax on that income in the normal manner.

If the “Staying Put” carer/s exceed the allowance they will have a choice of using the ‘simplified’ method or the standard profit and loss method to calculate their taxable profits. The carer/s will also be liable to pay Class 4 National Insurance Contributions on their taxable profit. Under the simplified method, a carer’s taxable profit is the income they receive from caring which exceeds their tax free allowance. Where foster carer/s or “Staying Put” carer/s do incur an Income Tax and Class 4 National Insurance liability and they have not used their personal allowance this can be used to off-set this liability.

Individual carers can consult their local HMRC office for guidance on their circumstances and liabilities.

In practice HMRC will treat the taxable profit from foster care or “Staying Put” care as earnings from self-employment for National Insurance Contributions purposes.

“Staying Put” carer/s as well as foster carer/s should note that they may be able to claim Working Tax Credits which are administered by HMRC. Fostering/”Staying Put” care is counted as work for Working Tax Credit purposes. The carer’s taxable income is included in the total household income that is used to assess the amount of tax credits that they are entitled to. So, where the carer is paid less than their tax free allowance, their income from caring for tax credits purposes is also nil.

HMRC is aware that a number of foster carers and ”Staying Put” carers may not have registered for Class 2 National Insurance Contributions because they make little or no taxable profit. Foster care and “Staying Put” care is deemed as self-employment and as such carer/s should register as self-employed. All self-employed people aged 16 and over who are below State Pension age are liable and must register to pay Class 2 National Insurance Contributions. Failure to do this may affect their entitlement to Employment and Support Allowance, Maternity Benefit, State Pension and Bereavement Benefit. However, self-employed carers may be able to apply for Carers Credits which have replaced Home Responsibilities Protection, and those with no or low taxable profits may be able to apply for a Small Earnings Exemption.

To claim a carers credit, foster carers/”Staying Put” carers must complete form CF411A available from HMRC.

If carers have not previously registered as self-employed they can obtain further information by calling the Newly Self-employed Helpline on 0300 200 3504.

If they are currently registered to pay Class 2 National Insurance Contributions they can obtain further information by calling the Self-employed Helpline on 0845 915 4655 instead.

See HMRC Helpsheet (hs) 236 sets out information about the ‘Shared Lives Carers’ - ‘Qualifying Care Relief Guidance’ - Fostering and “Staying Put” Income Tax and National Insurance framework.

Foster carers and “Staying Put” carers should always inform the DWP and HMRC if their circumstances change and should always check with the DWP and HMRC regarding their personal circumstances and how payments for foster care or “Staying Put” care may affect their means tested benefits or any Income Tax or National Insurance liability.

The Income Tax free allowance consists of two elements. Firstly, a fixed amount per foster care or Staying Put household. Secondly, an additional amount per week per child.

Where there is more than one paid Staying Put carer in the household, the allowance is shared equally by both carers.

The tax free allowance only applies to the Staying Put carer’s income from caring. If they have income from other sources, they will pay tax on that income in the normal manner.

Individual carers can consult their local HMRC office for guidance on their circumstances and liabilities.

For National Insurance Contributions purposes, in practice HMRC will treat the taxable profit from foster care or Staying Put care as earnings from self-employment. Foster care and Staying Put care is deemed as self-employment and as such carers should register as self-employed. All self-employed people aged 16 and over who are below State Pension age are liable and must register to pay Class 2 National Insurance Contributions.

5.8 Insurance (Including Liability and Household Insurance)

Staying Put carers will be provided with information about liability insurance cover in situations where Staying Put young people may make an allegation against a foster child in placement, or against their Staying Put carer/s, or an allegation is made against the Staying Put young person.

Staying put carers should be reminded of the need to check that their household and care insurance policies cover their particular circumstances since not all insurers approach fostering or staying put in the same way.


6. Ending of Staying Put Arrangements

The Staying Put arrangement extends until:

  • The young person leaves the Staying Put arrangement;

    or
  • The young person reaches their twenty-first birthday;

    or
  • The young person completes a programme of education or training (which may extend beyond their twenty-first birthday).

All young people reaching the age of 18 should have a Pathway Plan that sets out the arrangements for them moving onto semi-independent or independent living. For young people aged 18 who are entering a Staying Put arrangement the pathway plan should set out the provisional arrangements for the move-on from ‘Staying Put’. It is intended that the majority of young people will leave ‘Staying Put’ in a planned manner and individual arrangements should be set out in the accommodation section of the plan.

Where a young person decides to leave the ‘Staying Put’ arrangement of the carers decide that they would like the arrangement to come to an end a notice period of at least 28 days should be given. The social worker will then liaise with the Access to Resources Team and Housing Department to seek identification of alternative accommodation.

Where a Staying Put arrangement becomes vulnerable to break down, or ends in an unplanned way, a disruption meeting will take place in line with the fostering disruption policy.

End