STOP PRESS - CHILDREN TO BE ABLE TO STAY WITH FOSTER FAMILIES UNTIL 21
On 4th December; the Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove announced that he intends to place a new legal duty on local authorities to provide support for every young person who wants to stay with their foster parents until their 21st birthday - giving local authorities £40million over the next three years to put the support arrangements in place.
The measures will be added to the third reading of the Children and Families Bill which is due to be debated in the House of Lords later this year, which will become law from April 2014. The full details of the proposed measure will be announced later. In the meantime, the situation for Looked After Children reaching the age of 18 remains as per the Guidance issued in May 2013 which can be found on the FosterTalk Website by following this link: http://www.fostertalk.org/fostering-information/leaving-foster-care
The Fostering Network, together with a group of other children’s charities, is campaigning for looked after children and young people to be able to remain with their foster carers post 18.
FosterTalk is pleased to support this campaign and details of how you can Have YOUR Say are given below:
Many children in foster care leave their foster carers on or before their 18th birthday. This means that every year, some of society's most vulnerable young people are in effect having to leave at 17 – if not before – despite the average age for leaving home across the UK being 24. We wouldn’t treat our own children like this, so why should children in foster care be any different?
The Fostering Network wants to see all young people in foster care given the option to remain with their foster carers until the age of 21. They are calling for an amendment to the Children and Families Bill, which is making its way through Parliament. The amendment would give all fostered young people in England the chance to remain with their foster carers until the age of 21, if both parties were in agreement.
The amendment was debated in the House of Commons on 11 June and received a huge amount of cross-party support. Unfortunately the Children's minister, Edward Timpson’s response was that he does not see a need for legislation and instead wants to encourage local authorities to adopt a voluntary approach to setting up these schemes in their area. However, with only one in 20 young people remaining with their foster carer past the age of 18 years old, it is clear that this approach is not working.
The amendment has now been tabled by the Earl of Listowel and will be debated at Committee Stage following the summer recess. The Fostering Network wants to build on the success in the House of Commons by working with peers raise awareness of the issue and generate backing for the campaign.
The Fostering Network is currently writing a report looking at the current provisions for "staying put", including the numbers of young people still living with their foster carers and the financial support in place. This report will be published in time for the Committee Stage in the House of Lords.
Please help us win this campaign so that another generation of care leavers does not have to face the same struggle as they enter adult life. There is still an awful lot to do. You can help by:
You can find out more about the Don't Move Me campaign, and information on how you can get involved via the Fostering Network’s website. Tell your friends about Don't Move Me by sharing the campaign video wall.
As part of the new welfare reform, the new benefits cap was introduced today across 4 London Boroughs; Bromley, Croydon, Enfield, and Haringey.
The level of the cap will be:
The cap will apply to the total amount that the people in your household get from benefits. This will include, Carer’s Allowance, Child Benefit, Child Tax Credit, Housing Benefit, Income Support, Jobseeker’s Allowance amongst others.
The cap won't apply to you if you work enough hours to be eligible for working tax credit. Some other groups of people also won't be affected – call our helpline to find out more on 0844 800 3880.
The benefit cap will be introduced in all other council areas between 15 July and 30 September 2013.
Last week, we posted an update about the U-turn on bedroom tax for foster carers.
However, the government have since announced that the exemption will only apply to a foster carer’s first “spare” bedroom, meaning that those who have two or more bedrooms for fostering will still be affected.
This could deter foster carers from offering homes to sibling groups, leading to brothers and sisters being split up between different foster families.
A £5m discretionary housing fund has been allocated to help remedy the problem but some foster carers are already reporting problems accessing this support.
The effect of the bedroom tax on the stability of sibling placements could be devastating. That’s why we’ll continue to campaign for all foster carers to be exempt from these unfair housing benefit cuts.
Please join our campaign by sharing your views with us, and we will share them with the Minister.
The Fostering Information Exchange (FIE) has been launched as a group on the Local Government Association Knowledge Hub, following demand for there to be a place where everyone involved in foster care can share practice; explore ideas; discuss issues or new developments and access resources.
FosterTalk would encourage everyone involved in fostering to join FIE Follow this link to access the site, and Have YOUR Say on issues that matter!
The Children and Families Bill would change the law relating to adoption and children looked after by local authorities.
The Children and Families Bill takes forward the Coalition Government’s commitments to improve services for vulnerable children and support strong families. It underpins wider reforms to ensure that all children and young people can succeed, no matter what their background. The Bill will reform the systems for adoption, looked after children, family justice and special educational needs. It will encourage growth in the childcare sector, introduce a new system of shared parental leave and ensure children in England have a strong advocate for their rights.
Key provisions include, but are not limited to:
Part 1 of the Bill contains provisions to give effect to proposals in An Action Plan for Adoption: Tackling Delay published by the Department for Education on 14 March 2012 and Further Action on Adoption, published on 24 January 2013. These set out proposals to speed up the adoption process and enable more children to be placed in stable, loving homes with less delay and disruption.
The Bill includes provisions which:
MPs are particularly interested in your comments on the practical implications of specific clauses of the Bill. Please make clear whether your comment relates to a specific clause.
Children and Families Bill team
At the beginning of April 2013, new rules will affect the calculation of Housing Benefit for social housing tenants in England, Wales and Scotland (similar rules in Northern Ireland depend on legislation currently under consideration).
Payments will be reduced by 14 per cent where a house is deemed to be “under-occupied” by one room and 24 per cent if under-occupied by two or more rooms. This may affect foster carers particularly, as fostered children are not counted when considering whether a home is fully occupied or not
Example: A foster carer living in a three-bedroomed house, with no birth children living at home, will see their Housing Benefit cut by 25 per cent, regardless of how many foster children they have.
Local authorities are allocated a budget for Discretionary Housing Payments which they can use to support households which are in difficulties in meeting their rent, but although these budgets have been significantly increased, demand is expected to be extremely high so foster carers need to apply for DHP as soon as their housing benefit is affected.
Pensioners housing benefit claims will not be affected by the new rules.
Children’s Minister Edward Timpson stated in a Parliamentary answer that:
“The discretionary housing payment (DHP) fund, administered by local authorities, will be increased by £5 million a year from April 2013. This will enable authorities to compensate foster carers whose housing benefit is subject to a restriction as a result of the size criteria measure being introduced for working age claimants living in the social rented sector.
The Department for Work and Pension's DHP guidance manual for local authorities is being revised. It will make clear the expectation that this additional funding will be prioritised for foster carers whose housing benefit is reduced as a result of this change because of a bedroom being used by, or kept free for, foster children.
I am meeting the Minister for Welfare Reform early in the new year to discuss what more needs to be done to ensure that local authority chief executives, directors of children's services and local housing authorities are aware that funds are available to assist foster carers, and to encourage them to use this support as effectively as possible to help meet their responsibility as corporate parents to see that vulnerable looked after children have access to loving, stable homes.”
FosterTalk members can seek advice and guidance on this matter by contacting FosterTalk’s member helpline: 0844 800 3880 – option 0
If you are a foster carer and think that this change may adversely affect you then please contact us. FosterTalk will pass all of your responses to the Children’s Minister Edward Timpson who has pledged that he will discuss with the DWP what more can be done to support foster carers on this issue.
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