Children and Families Minister Edward Timpson has hailed a new government scheme under which local councils are required to support children who stay with their foster parents beyond the age of 18 as “a spectacular success”.
BBC News reports that the government has said new rules introduced in March 2014 are a “big improvement” to the care system, as a total of 2,300 young people between the ages of 18 and 21 have chosen to remain with their foster families.
Local councils have warned, however, of a funding shortfall, despite being committed to the scheme.
The government says that children over the age of 18 who are in foster care often miss out on the sort of help that parents provide to their children when they reach 18 – and the new rules address this for children in foster care. Children choosing to remain in foster care beyond the age of 18 will be supported until they turn 21.
Deputy chairman of the Local Government Association, Councillor David Simmonds, said:
“We are absolutely committed to ensuring as many of our most vulnerable young people as possible can stay with their foster families if they choose to – but these changes have to be sufficiently resourced.”
“Councils remain concerned that the cost to councils of keeping children with foster parents until they are 21 has been significantly underestimated by government.”
Children’s and Families Minister Edward Timpson said:
“We're already seeing spectacular success and we've made available new money – £44 million – to councils over the next three years, to try and meet that demand.
“And, of course, we'll need to keep that under review to make sure that every young person who chooses – because it's their choice with the support of their foster carer to remain living with them – gets that opportunity to do so.
“Because we know what a huge difference it can make to their prospects and future life.”
Government figures show that in 2014, a total of 41% of 19-year-olds who left care were not in education, employment or training – compared with 13% of all 19-year-olds.
Children’s charity The Fostering Network said that around 78% of children in care are placed with foster families. The Fostering Network's chief executive, Kevin Williams, told the BBC that the changes were proving “extremely effective”.
However, Mr Williams has called on the government to provide more support, guidance and finances to ensure “even more young people can benefit from this remarkable change in the care system”.
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