Children in care to be given option of staying with foster parents until age of 21

Children and Families Minister will also pledge £40m extra funding for councils over next three years

All children in care in England will be given the opportunity to stay with foster parents until the age of 21, the government will announce today.

Foster parents are currently only given financial support to look after children until they are 18. Under a new law, local authorities will have a legal duty to give families financial help for every young person who wants to stay with their foster parents until their 21st birthday.

Children and Families Minister Edward Timpson will make the announcement today, along with a pledge of £40 million extra funding for councils over the next three years. The measure will be added onto the Children and Families Bill during its third reading.

Mr Timpson, whose own family fostered nearly 90 children, said: “I know from the many foster children I grew up with how crucial it is for them to be given sufficient time to prepare for life after care.

“A growing number of local authorities already offer young people the choice to stay but with little financial support it can be challenging for their foster families. Now all councils will have to follow their example.”

Mr Timpson said the measure was part of a “wider package of support for care leavers,” including greater financial support for young people leaving care at 18. He added: “This will allow the 10,000 young people leaving stable and secure homes to make the transition from care to independence when they are ready, rather than when their council tells them to.”

Children’s rights campaigners welcomed the change, which reflects growing evidence that removing support at 18 can impact on vulnerable young adults’ likelihood of staying in education and finding work.

Robert Tapsfield, chief executive of the Fostering Network, said: “We are absolutely thrilled with this change in legal duty for local authorities, backed up with appropriate financial support, that will ensure that young people in England have the opportunity to enter adulthood supported by the foster families that have devoted their lives to caring for them.”

Matt Downie, head of campaigns at Action for Children said: “We have been asking for the care leaving age to be increased for decades – this is a long time coming but a vital change for vulnerable children and young people.

“The trauma that many experience before being taken into care can mean that they are not ready to leave care. Many are forced to live independently as young as 16 and we know that this can be a dangerous and lonely experience.”

Care leavers are over-represented in prisons and experts believe a longer time supported in the family home could give more of them the stability to stay out of trouble. A quarter of adult prisoners spent time in care in their childhood - and more than half of all juvenile offenders have been looked after. 

Those who leave care at 18 could cost the state an estimated £131,000 more per person in benefits and public service support than those who leave later, according to analysis published by Action for Children published today. Young people who stay on in foster care achieve more qualifications and are less likely to be involved in alcohol and substance misuse than those who leave when they reach legal adulthood.

Last year only 330 young people (5 per cent of care leavers) in England were still with their foster carers by the age of 19. Government projections in early 2012 suggested this new measure would initially lead to about 530 extra young people a year staying on in care annually. But the funding announced has allowed for more than ten times that number after local authorities and campaigners expressed concerns that the Department for Education had under-estimated interest. 

The announcement only applies to children in England, as the issue is devolved in Scotland and Wales and they have yet to raise the age of support.

Mr Tapsfield said: “This issue has not been resolved for young people in Wales and Scotland. We will continue to campaign for this change in the law to be replicated. The next stage of this work begins today with the launch of the Chance to Stay campaign in the Senedd, where we hope that the Welsh Government will also be persuaded of the benefits of allowing young people to stay until 21.”

Recent statistics on looked after children showed a 3.1 per cent increase in the number of local authorities choosing to offer arrangements for children to stay on beyond legal adulthood. This has coincided with a 2 per cent reduction in the number of care leavers not in education, employment or training.

Enver Solomon of the National Children’s Bureau said: “These reforms will provide much-needed stability to vulnerable young people, many of whom have had the hardest starts in life. Most importantly it will help put support for foster children on a par with other young adults and allow them to enjoy the emotional support of family relationships as they make the transition to adult independence. It is a real step forward towards a fairer deal for foster children and a considerable contribution to improving their life chances.”

Arts and Entertainment
Attenborough with the primates
tvWhy BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
News
people
News
Campbell: ‘Sometimes you have to be economical with the truth’
newsFormer spin doctor says MPs should study tactics of leading sports figures like José Mourinho
News
news
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Voices
Lance Corporal Joshua Leakey VC
voicesBeware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
Life and Style
Alexander McQueen's AW 2009/10 collection during Paris Fashion Week
fashionMeet the collaborators who helped create the late designer’s notorious spectacles
Sport
football
News
i100
News
Perry says: 'Psychiatrists give help because they need help. You would not be working in mental health if you didn't have a curiosity about how the mind works.'
people
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper / Office Co-ordinator

    £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This role is based within a small family run ...

    Recruitment Genius: Designer - Print & Digital

    £28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Design and marketing agenc...

    Recruitment Genius: Quantity Surveyor

    £46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This property investment firm are lookin...

    Recruitment Genius: Telesales / Telemarketing Executive - OTE £30k / £35k plus

    £18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company specialises provid...

    Day In a Page

    War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
    Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

    Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

    The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
    A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

    It's not easy being Green

    After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
    Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

    Gorillas nearly missed

    BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
    Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

    The Downton Abbey effect

    Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
    China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

    China's wild panda numbers on the up

    New census reveals 17% since 2003
    Barbara Woodward: Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with the growing economic superpower

    Our woman in Beijing builds a new relationship

    Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with growing economic power
    Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer. But the only British soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross in Afghanistan has both

    Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer

    Beware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
    Alexander McQueen: The catwalk was a stage for the designer's astonishing and troubling vision

    Alexander McQueen's astonishing vision

    Ahead of a major retrospective, Alexander Fury talks to the collaborators who helped create the late designer's notorious spectacle
    New BBC series savours half a century of food in Britain, from Vesta curries to nouvelle cuisine

    Dinner through the decades

    A new BBC series challenged Brandon Robshaw and his family to eat their way from the 1950s to the 1990s
    Philippa Perry interview: The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course

    Philippa Perry interview

    The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef recreates the exoticism of the Indonesian stir-fry

    Bill Granger's Indonesian stir-fry recipes

    Our chef was inspired by the south-east Asian cuisine he encountered as a teenager
    Chelsea vs Tottenham: Harry Kane was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope

    Harry Kane interview

    The striker was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope
    The Last Word: For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?
    HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

    Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

    Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?