Up until now, foster parents in England were only given financial support to take care of children until they turn 18. The new law that has been put in place this week will give teenagers in care the option to stay with foster families until they turn 21. Local authorities will now have a duty to support foster families financially until the young person’s 21st birthday.
Children and Families Minister Edward Timpson made the announcement earlier this week, along with a pledge of an extra £40 million for funding over the next three years.
Mr Timpson’s family has fostered almost 90 children, so he knows how crucial it is for children in care to be given sufficient time to prepare for life outside of the care system. He says the measure is part of a wider package of support for care leavers that will include a greater level of financial support for those leaving care at 18.
Children’s rights campaigners welcome the change:
“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.”
– Matt Downie, head of campaigns at Action for Children.
Analysis published by Action for Children shows that young people who stay in foster care achieve more educational qualifications and are less likely to abuse alcohol/drugs than those who leave when they reach legal adulthood.
The announcement made only applies to England; as of yet Scotland and Wales have not raised the age of support. Campaigners say this is an issue they will continue to push in the hope that both Scotland and Wales will follow England’s example.