The government has agreed funding nationally for a scheme called “Staying Put” which enables young people to remain with their foster families until the age of 21.
The government has pledged £40m over the next three years to fund the plan which has been described by children’s charities as the most significant reform for children in care in a generation. It will be introduced during the third reading of the Children and Families Bill next year.
North Yorkshire was one of the first pilot authorities to introduce the scheme in 2008 and is recognised as a beacon of good practice across the UK. Its evidence about the success of the scheme was fed through to Government ministers.
The authority believes fundamentally that enabling young people to stay with their foster families beyond 18 gives them stability and support at a crucial stage in their education and the confidence to go on to succeed at university or in training. The authority carried on with the scheme even when the pilot – and the funding that went with it – came to an end.
Twenty three care leavers in North Yorkshire are now participating in higher education – double the national average. One care leaver is currently studying for a postgraduate degree at Oxford University and 22 are students at other universities and higher education establishments.
County councillor Tony Hall, North Yorkshire’s Executive Member for Children’s Services said:
The government’s decision means we can continue with this priority scheme which gives support to our most vulnerable young people by enabling them to stay with their foster families at a critical time in their lives. This gives them continuity and stability so they have the chance to achieve to the best of their ability and go on to acquire the qualifications and skills that will help towards a fulfilling future.
The county council currently supports 247 care leavers and 21 of these remain with foster families beyond the age of 18. Young people leaving care who are in education or training are also entitled to support from North Yorkshire’s leaving care team and a “virtual school” until they are aged 25.
Representatives from the Children’s Office for Scotland have visited the county recently to look at the way that North Yorkshire supports looked after young people in foster care as they move on into adulthood,. Indeed latest figures from 2012 show that North Yorkshire accounts for 10 per cent of the entire population of young people who remain in the care system beyond the age of 18.