Staying Put Protocol
SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER
A Staying Put arrangement is where a young person who has been living in foster care remains in the former foster home after the age of 18.
RELEVANT GUIDANCEStaying Put: Good Practice Guide
The Care Matters White Paper contained a significant focus on improving the support for children preparing for adulthood including a pilot programme enabling young people to remain with their foster carers beyond the age of eighteen. To meet the commitments in the White Paper and the duties towards care leavers in the Children and Young Persons Act 2008, the Care Planning, Placement and Case Review Regulations and Guidance 2010 and the Planning Transition to Adulthood for Care Leavers Regulations and Guidance 2010 placed an emphasis on a more graduated approach to planning transition to adulthood. The average age of leaving home is rising and the transition to adulthood is increasingly becoming more complex and elongated. The "Staying Put" policy framework requires local authorities to set out local arrangements for extending foster placements as "Staying Put" arrangements in order to extend children/young people's transition to adulthood within a family and household supported environment. The intention being to ensure young people can remain with their former foster carers until they are prepared for adulthood, they can experience a transition akin to their peers, avoid social exclusion and be more likely to avert a subsequent housing and tenancy breakdown.
Waltham Forest Council is committed to preventing social exclusion amongst care leavers and has developed the following "Staying Put" policy in order to ensure that they can continue to live with former foster carers after their 18th birthday and make the transition to independent living at a pace that suits their needs.
The policy sets out:
- The process for extending a foster care placement beyond a young person's eighteenth birthday into a "Staying Put" arrangement;
- The financial requirements and benefit issues for young people;
- The financial rates and payment implications for foster carers and "Staying Put" carers;
- The welfare benefit issues for foster carers and "Staying Put" carers;
- The income tax and national insurance implications and issues for foster carers and "Staying Put" carers.
This "Staying Put" policy has been developed to address the requirements of the:
- Children and Families Act 2014;
- DfE, DWP and HMRC "Staying Put" Guidance 2014;
- Care Planning, Placement and Case Review (England) Regulations and Guidance 2010, (and amendments);
- Planning Transition to Adulthood for Care Leavers (England) Regulations and Guidance 2010 (revised 2014);
- Fostering Service (England) Regulations 2011 and related Guidance (and amendments);
- National Minimum Standards (NMS) for Fostering Services (2011) (and amendments).
2. Staying Put Definitions
2.1 Department for Education Definitions
The term "Staying Put" is used to define the following arrangements where:
- A young person who was looked after immediately prior to their eighteenth birthday (as an eligible child) continues to reside with their former foster carer/s;
- The carer/s were acting as foster carers to the child immediately prior to the young person's eighteenth birthday (that is, the carers were approved as foster carers in accordance with the Fostering Service (England) Regulations 2011 and the child had been placed with them by the local authority, or via an Independent Fostering Agency);
- A young person is deemed an eligible child, within the meaning of paragraph 19B(2) of Schedule 2 to the Children Act 1989, immediately before he/she reached eighteen;
- The "Staying Put" arrangement is set out in the child/young person's Pathway Plan;
- A proportion of the allowance paid to the "Staying Put" carer/s is paid by the Local Authority Children's Services under section 23C of the Children Act 1989.
The "Staying Put" arrangement extends until:
- The young person first leaves the "Staying Put" arrangement; or
- The young person reaches their twenty-first birthday or, if 21 or over is continuing a programme of education or training if continuously, and still living in the arrangement.
2.2 Department for Work and Pensions Definitions
The specific DWP legislation covering "Staying Put" arrangements highlights that (1) where a young person continues to reside with their former foster carer after their eighteenth birthday, and (2) where the child was looked after immediately prior to their eighteenth birthday, and (3) where the payments are made by the local authority to the carer under section 23C of the Children Act 1989, the payments are disregarded in calculating the carers entitlement to means tested benefits.
When a commercial arrangement is made, i.e. any element of the cost of the arrangement comes from a source other than section 23C; the non-section 23C element will be taken into account in the calculation of the "Staying Put" carers own means tested benefit claim.
Additionally, the disregard is lost on the whole payment (section 23C and non-section 23C elements) when the young person first leaves the "Staying Put" arrangement, should the young person return to their former foster/"Staying Put" carer or, move to another carer after their eighteenth birthday.
2.3 HM Revenue and Customs Definitions
The term "Staying Put" (HMRC) is used to define arrangements where:
- A young person was looked after immediately prior to their eighteenth birthday;
- The young person has a Pathway Plan;
- A proportion of the allowance paid to the "Staying Put" carer/s is paid by the Local Authority;
- "Staying Put" arrangements can extend until:
- The young person reaches their twenty-first birthday; or
- The young person completes the agreed programme of education or training being undertaken on their twenty-first birthday.
3. Waltham Forest - Staying Put Scheme
From the age of 18 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 applies. In circumstances where a young person remains with their former foster carer/s after their 18th birthday, the arrangement should therefore be deemed an 'age eighteen and older arrangement' or "Staying Put" arrangement. 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 18 and legal adulthood, the local authority is no longer making a placement, but facilitating a "Staying Put" arrangement for the young person.
3.2 Changing Status - Foster Care Placement to "Staying Put" Arrangement
Following a young person's 18th birthday, the legal basis on which they occupy the property (former foster care home) changes and they become an 'excluded licensee' who is effectively lodging in the "Staying Put" carer/s home. Whilst the term 'excluded licensee' is a legal one, it should not denote that the young person will be treated differently than they were as a fostered child. In addition, the carer will become, and be deemed the young person's landlord.
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 understands 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.
An excluded licensee can be asked to leave the property by the "Staying Put" carer, who must give 'reasonable notice'. In extreme circumstances it may be considered reasonable for the "Staying Put" carer to give very short notice and ask the young person to leave on the same day.
3.3 Procedure for Extending a Foster Care Placement into a "Staying Put" Arrangement
The Leaving Care Assessment of Need begins at the age of 16 and should identify the timescale required for young people to move to independence and should be used as the framework for beginning to explore the following questions and issues:
- Is it likely that the young person would benefit from a "Staying Put" arrangement when they reach their 18th birthday;
- Is the young person and their foster carer/s in agreement to a "Staying Put" arrangement;
- Does the young person and their foster carer/s understand the procedures and requirements for extending a foster care placement into a "Staying Put" arrangement;
- Does the young person understand their financial and benefit responsibilities associated with remaining in a "Staying Put" arrangement;
- Does the foster carer/s understand the changes in their funding arrangements associated with a "Staying Put" arrangement;
- Does the foster carer/s understand the impact of a "Staying Put" arrangement on their welfare benefit income and on their Income Tax and National Insurance responsibilities and liabilities;
- What is the parallel plan for the young person should the "Staying Put" arrangement not be viable;
- What are the preparation for independence tasks, goals and targets to be achieved during the last two years of foster care and when the placement becomes a "Staying Put" arrangement.
To ensure sufficient time is available to make the necessary planning arrangements for extending a placement beyond a young person's 18th birthday, a professionals meeting should take place as part of the Leaving Care Assessment of Need, this meeting should take place immediately prior to the young person's 16th birthday. The "Staying Put" meeting should include the foster carer/s, supervising social worker and leaving care social worker/personal adviser and should establish the viability and likelihood of a "Staying Put" arrangement occurring. The meeting should identify all the tasks that are required to extending the fostering arrangement into a "Staying Put" arrangement and apportion roles and responsibilities. The meeting should also explore the impact on the foster carers' financial circumstances should the placement/arrangement continue after the young person's 18th birthday.
Young people should not be included in the initial meeting and planning process, and should only be included after their foster carer/s have confirmed they are able to retain the young person (in principle) under a "Staying Put" arrangement when the young person reaches the age of 18. Not including the young person at the initial stage is required in order to ensure the stability of the placement and to avoid unsettling the young person, particularly if the foster carer feels unable to take on a "Staying Put" arrangement.
The responsibility for co-ordinating the initial "Staying Put" meeting rests with the young person's social worker.
The outcome of the "Staying Put" professionals meeting should form the basis of a report presented to Waltham Forest's Children in Care Panel (CIC Panel) when the young person reaches the age of 17½. The initial report presented to CIC Panel acts as the basis of an early alert system regarding planning for the "Staying Put" requirements.
The outcome of the meeting should be discussed at the young person's statutory review and the decision ratified by the Independent Reviewing Officer. The outcome of the meeting and decision of the Statutory Review should then form the basis of the report presented to CIC Panel, when the young person reaches the age of 17½, who are responsible for any decision regarding extending a fostering arrangement into a "Staying Put" arrangement.
The review should also ensure the young person has the relevant documents required for making claims for benefits and housing prior to their 18th birthday.
All meetings should make reference to the reason for the "Staying Put" arrangement, the practical requirements associated with "Staying Put" and also the National Insurance, Income Tax and Welfare Benefits issues for the foster carer/s/"Staying Put" carer/s and the Welfare Benefit issues for the young person.
The case should be returned to CIC Panel three months after a Staying Put arrangement has been in place to clarify that all tasks have been completed.
All reports presented to CIC Panel should set out the roles and responsibilities of all involved in the "Staying Put" arrangement, i.e. "Staying Put" carer, Supervising Social Worker, Leaving Care Social Worker/Leaving Care Adviser and Young Person.
3.4 Young People Placed in Independent Fostering Agencies
Requests to extend young people placed in Independent Fostering Agency (IFA) placements will be considered against the same criteria as Waltham Forest foster carer placements (vulnerability, education, disability, moving on):
- Negotiations should commence with the IFA when a young person reaches the age of 16 regarding whether they would accept the Waltham Forest rate being paid after their 18th birthday;
- Benefit maximisation should take place in line with the Waltham Forest foster carer policy. Clothing and pocket money and any other allowance contained within the fostering fee should cease at age of 18. Housing benefit should be claimed at age 18;
- In circumstances where a young person can claim housing benefit in an IFA placement, the housing benefit will be paid directly to Waltham Forest. If, due to the Staying Put arrangement being outside of Waltham Forest and not possible to pay the housing benefit directly to Waltham Forest, it will be paid to the IFA or Staying Put carer and the rate paid to the IFA Carer/ IFA adjusted.
3.5 Information to be Presented to Waltham Forest Children in Care Panel
The following information should be presented to CIC Panel when the child reaches the age of 17.5 setting out the purpose and aims of the "Staying Put" arrangement and any particular milestones, targets and outcomes.
The overall purpose and aims should be set out in the young person's Pathway Plan and the day to day arrangements for supporting the young person should be set out in their Living Together Agreement, which is an extension of the Placement Plan;
Information on tasks, roles and responsibilities should include:
- Arrangements for supporting the young person to claim any benefits they are entitled too and who will assist them with this task;
- Arrangements for supporting and promoting education and training;
- Transition arrangements to an Adult Service and an Adult Placement;
- The anticipated length of the "Staying Put" arrangement and the anticipated move-on arrangements;
- What criteria "Staying Put" is being granted for;
- What preparation for independence tasks are to be undertaken and what improved life skills are anticipated by extending foster care as a "Staying Put" arrangement. What are the safeguarding arrangements for the young person, any foster children in placement and the children of the foster carers, has a DBS check been started or completed, is it anticipated that a risk assessment will be required;
- What are the safeguarding arrangements for the young person, any foster children In placement and the children of the foster carers; has a DBS check been started or completed; is it anticipated that a risk assessment will be required;
- Where a young person is "Staying Put" in an arrangement outside of the Waltham Forest area will they return to Waltham Forest or move to the private sector where they live;
- What are the plans for supporting them in achieving their long term housing;
- Any specific vulnerabilities and needs of the young person;
- Information should include the views of the foster carer, young person and IRO and any specific financial issues related to the carer.
The case should be returned to CIC Panel when the young person has been in the Staying Put arrangement for three months to clarify that all tasks have been completed.
4. Housing Benefit for Young People
All young people are expected to claim Housing Benefit from their 18th birthday which is paid directly to Waltham Forest Council budget and is used to cover the rent/accommodation element of the "Staying Put" arrangement.
In exceptional situations where a young person is not eligible to claim Housing Benefit, Waltham Forest Children's Services will pay the rent/accommodation element of the "Staying Put" arrangement, i.e. where a child is living with a former foster carer who is a close family member (sibling) or the young person's immigration status has not been resolved.
The local housing allowance level and housing benefit claim rate will vary depending where the carers reside. Please check the following websites:
This will provide the local housing allowances based on post codes or local authority to where the young person resides.
All care leavers under the age of 22 can claim housing benefit on the one bedroom local housing allowance level.
4.1 Liability for Rent
All young people living in a "Staying Put" arrangement have a liability for rent week which is set on a commercial basis. Young people are expected to pay the rent from their earnings or housing benefit, or a combination. The liability for rent is set out in the young person's license agreement.
4.2 Housing Benefit for Young People - Guidance
From the age of 18 young people can claim help from Housing Benefit towards their rent where there is a liability to pay rent.
For current information on entitlement to Welfare Benefits for young people in Staying Put arrangements please see Staying Put: arrangements for care leavers aged 18 years and above.
A letter needs to be completed alongside the housing benefit application. 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.
NOTE: In circumstances where young people claim Housing Benefit and the "Staying Put" carer/s are in receipt of a means tested benefit, the young person's benefit claim will result in the "Staying Put" carers benefit being reduced. This reduction will be off-set by the local authority (Waltham Forest) paying an amount equivalent to the level of the benefit reduction as section 23C compensatory payment.
5. Section 23C Payments and Benefit Issues for "Staying Put" Carers
Early planning for, and identification of, the benefits and financial circumstances of individual carers is critical to ensuring that appropriate plans and arrangements are in place for both the carers and young person. Given the complexity of making these arrangements, commencing planning these from the child's 16th birthday should provide sufficient time to ensure the necessary arrangements and support are in place by their 18th birthday.
For the most up to date information on payments and benefits please see following links:
6. 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 placement.
For HMRC purposes only, there is a broader definition of 'Staying Put. A 'Staying Put' carer (for HMRC purposes only) does not need to be a registered foster carer or former foster carer. This means that young people are able to return to a different Staying Put carer between the age of 18 and 21 (or until the completion of an education or training course) - for example during a university vacation.
Where a Staying Put arrangement meets the HMRC qualifying criteria (and where the young adult continues to be cared for as a member of the carer's family) the Income Tax and National Insurance rules that apply to foster carers are extended to Staying Put carers. The young people are required to share the Staying Put carers' home and daily family life during the 'staying put' arrangement i.e. live as a 'member of the carer's family'. This system provides for foster carers and/or Staying Put carers 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. 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.
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.
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 website. Details below 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.
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.
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.
To claim a carers credit, foster carers/"Staying Put" carers must complete form CF411A available from HMRC.
6.1 Council Tax, Council Tax Support and Non-Dependent Deductions
- 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;
- 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;
- 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;
- 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;
- 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;
- "Staying Put" young people will not incur an 'Under Occupancy' or bedroom tax charge on the "Staying Put" carers.
Please see Staying Put: arrangements for care leavers aged 18 years and above for more information.
7. The Treatment of Benefits
Payments from Children's Services to young people under section 17, section 20, section 23, section 24 and section 31 (Children Act 1989) do not count as income for benefit purposes. Payments made to young people and passed to former foster carer/s from section 23C (Children Act 1989) are disregarded in the assessment of the former foster carer/s' income for benefit purposes, if the young person was formerly in the claimant's care, is aged 18 or over and continues to live with the claimant within a non-commercial family type arrangement. If the arrangement is a commercial one (i.e. if the young person contributes to the arrangement by paying rent) the section 23C disregard ceases on any non-section 23C element of the payment.
8. Minimum Standards and Practical Requirements
In situations where no foster children live in the placement and a decision is taken to terminate/deregister the "Staying Put" carers fostering registration, the overall arrangement then comes within the 'Suitable Accommodation' framework as set out in the Planning Transition to Adulthood Guidance, which includes the Care Leavers (England) Regulations (2014) and must comply with Regulation 6, 7 & 9 and Schedule 2.
"Staying Put" carers should ensure they inform their mortgage provider or landlord and their buildings and contents insurance provider that they will continue to be supporting a former foster child as a young adult under a "Staying Put" arrangement.
Failure to inform the above may cause a breach of mortgage/tenancy requirements and may result in insurance cover being void due to a 'failure to disclose material facts'. "Staying Put" carers continue to be covered under the Waltham Forest Council Insurance Policy in the same way as Foster Carers.
"Staying Put" carers who transport young people are required to apply the same level of standards and care when transporting "Staying Put" young people as they did when they were transporting a foster child, i.e. comprehensive business insurance, a valid MOT, a valid Road Vehicle License and a road worthy vehicle. "Staying Put" expectations should be incorporated into the 'Foster Carer Agreement' that foster carers sign on initial approval.
9. Move On Arrangements – Planned Move On –Disruptions – Emergency & Unplanned Move On and Evictions, Non-Payment of Rent, Tenancy Status – Excluded Licence
All young people reaching the age of 18 should have a pathway plan that sets out the arrangements for them moving to semi-independent or independent living. Young people reaching the age of 18 and commencing a "Staying Put" arrangement should also have a pathway plan that sets out the provisional arrangements for a move-on from "Staying Put". The majority of young people will leave "Staying Put" in a planned manner and move to a Waltham Forest housing authority tenancy in the same way that other care leavers do. Individual arrangements should be set out in the young person's pathway plan.
9.1 Planned Move-On
Where young people decide that they would like to leave the "Staying Put" arrangement, or the "Staying Put" carers decide that they would like the arrangement to come to an end, each party should give at least 28 days-notice. The young person's leaving care personal adviser and the Access to Resources Team will arrange for the young person to access suitable accommodation from approved providers of the local authority.
Where a young person displays unacceptable behaviour or participates in activities that are deemed inappropriate, a disruption meeting will take place in line with the fostering disruption policy/pathway plan review policy. Any new or changed requirements or house rules will be set out in an up-dated Living Together Agreement.
9.3 Emergency and Unplanned Move-On and Evictions
Where a young person displays extreme behaviour or commits an offence against a person within the household they may be required to leave the "Staying Put" arrangement on the same day or within a short period of time. Wherever possible, a disruption/pathway plan review meeting will take place and will set out where the young person will move to.
The circumstances leading to the young person being required to leave may result in the young person being deemed intentionally homeless. Additionally, leaving the "Staying Put" arrangement in an emergency and in an un-planned manner may limit the young person's accommodation choices, and in the short term they may need to live in a range of temporary accommodation.
Reasonable notice could be construed as having to leave immediately, where a person has acted in an extremely inappropriate manner, for example, violence towards members of the household, property damage, abusive/racist behaviour, theft from the property.
9.4 Non-Payment of Rent
In situations where young people do not pay their rent, either by not making the required payment or by not claiming housing benefit they may be subject to an eviction process. In all situations where a young person owes four weeks rent a disruption/pathway planning meeting will be called. The disruption/pathway planning meeting will decide on the action required by the young person to address the rent arrears. Young people will be given every opportunity to repay any arrears and eviction will only take place as a last resort in situations of rent arrears. The young person is asked to leave the property with 'reasonable notice'.
9.5 Tenancy Status - Excluded License
The tenancy status of young people living in "Staying Put" arrangements is that of an 'Excluded Licensee'. Being on a 'License' and living in a household with the 'landlord' means that the licensee has very few tenancy rights and can be asked to leave the property with 'reasonable notice'. Reasonable notice could be construed as having to leave immediately, where a person has acted in an extremely inappropriate manner, for example, violence towards members of the household, property damage, abusive/racist behaviour, theft from the property.
Appendix 1: Covering Letter for Housing Benefit Applications – Licence Agreement
Appendix 2: Standard "Staying Put" Arrangement - Housing Benefit Claim Letter
Appendix 3: Financial Package for 'Staying Put' Arrangements
The Staying Put allowance is based on the fostering allowance for 16+. Given that the young adult is semi-independent, the task centred fostering relationship has fundamentally altered into something akin to a 'landlord' relationship. To reflect this shift in task and focus, the Staying Put allowance does not attract the 'Fee' element of fostering under the Tiered fostering payment scheme.
To recognise the different tasks in the Staying Put role, the allowance for this scheme has a 15% uplift from the 16+ fostering allowance. This will be paid direct to the Staying Put carer, by Waltham Forest.
Any revenue from Housing Benefit will be offset from the Staying Put fee and therefore recouped by Waltham Forest.
The element of the rent within the Staying Put fee will be based on the local area allowance (rent) and varies on geographical area.
Please check the Valuation Office Agency (VOA) Local reference rents level Collection to ascertain area level as it will vary from year to year.