A national minimum allowance for the Staying Put policy should be introduced, the National Association of Fostering Providers has warned.
Under the Staying Put policy, which was made law through the Children and Families Act 2014, councils have a duty to support looked-after children who want to remain with their foster carer until they are 21-years-old.
However, under-funding the policy means that many carers are unable to pay their bills and support young people in their care.
“Enabling young people to continue to live with their foster carers after 18 is a wonderful policy and something many carers have done informally for many years,” said Harvey Gallagher, chief executive of NAFP.
“But government have under-funded the Staying Put policy and, as a result, too many carers are unable to afford to pay basic bills and continue to care for young people,” he added.
NAFP is calling on the next government to review the impact of Staying Put to consider the true cost, lost costs, capacity costs and timelines to ensure a better approach could be taken.
“Akin to the national minimum fostering allowance, an allowance for Staying Put would bring up the lowest levels of support to something more manageable,” added Gallagher.
Ahead of the general election, the Association also urges that every child in care goes to the most appropriate placement for them as an individual.
“We would like to see a strengthening of legal guidance that means the most appropriate placement, as defined in the Children Act 1989, is not just a category of care, but the placement that most meets the needs of every individual child,” said Gallagher.
The NAFP also urges an end to “overblown and inefficient commissioning of children's services,” saying that commissioning of foster care is hugely inefficient and ineffective and re-instating the commissioning support programme would go some way to repairing this.
The Association concludes that new ways of managing a mixed economy of fostering services are needed as the impact of budget constraints on local authorities has had consequential impact beyond the front line delivery of services over the last five years.
“New delivery models should be encouraged in ways that have yet to occur, such as local authorities primarily offering only emergency placements and utilising IFP carers for planned placements. Better local (as opposed to national) coordination of existing foster care placements in needed to ensure better use of vacancies, the most appropriative placement and an end to local authorities competing with each other for IFP placements,” the Association concludes.