Covid 19 Lockdown Blogs
Alan( names changed ) is the eldest of the three siblings who came to us almost seven years ago. He was 13 year old and a terrified young man. He asked, on day 1, why we were doing this for him. Building his self-esteem, independence and resilience has been our key objective.
Alan is doing great and has completed his first year of a degree course, having completed an access course the previous year ( loosely living in halls of residence during term time for two years ) . This has been an unusual year and Alan came home from University before the start of lockdown – because this is where his security is. In the event of a second wave of coronavirus he wants to be near his brother and sister, closest friends and us – this is where his only family is.
Alan recently told his Local Authority Social Worker in answer to a closed question, that he would happily go completely independent, but has explained to me that he thought he was talking about after his 21st birthday – as the local authority website states that he will be supported in Staying Put until he is 21.
Alan needs the continuing support we offer to maintain a sense of security and stability. His social worker is unable to explain how he will continue to be supported in the event of a second lockdown. Previously we received the full staying put allowance – with an understanding that from this we would pay the fees for Alan’s Halls of Residence. This is what Alan wants this year – but it appears that the Local Authority have other ideas.
The statutory guidance makes it clear that living away from home on a temporary basis does not preclude a staying put arrangement from continuing. Different areas of the country may treat young people leaving care differently, with many still escalated to independence far earlier than their peers. It was anything but easy to secure Alan’s Staying Put agreement in September 2019, when he was 19, as he had been in Halls of Residence for several months of the previous year.
This Summer further questions have been asked. We have explained that he only lived away from end of September 2019 to Christmas then January to March 20th 2020– it amounts to a total of 5 months / 16 months from May 2019.
Two of our three siblings ( Rhiannon and Alan ) are now technically in danger of missing out on the chance to stay living with us, because they have worked hard to secure places in Higher Education. We are their long term foster family, their only family. 5 years ago I left my career, to concentrate on meeting the needs of the siblings.
Now our only option to maintain a family home for the young people, in the event that staying put payments are not paid, would be to use the lump sum from our pension to pay our housing costs for the next few years so that we can maintain a home for them to return to. We suspect that the Local Authority is depending on this “goodwill” because we care deeply for the young people.
Thankfully the Supervising Social Worker of our Independent Fostering Association is trying to support us – but time will tell. Meanwhile Alan is blissfully unaware of the ongoing discussions. He went to the pub for lunch today then rang to ask whether the “boys”( his lovely supportive friends ) could come and sit in the garden ( with the fire pit ) this evening, for a few drinks. Seems like our garden is the “in” place for the local young people to congregate.
He knows that there are an abundance of pizzas in the freezer and will be hopeful that some will be served at around 9pm. To Alan this is his home – and just as any mum would do, I will continue to nurture without counting the financial cost.
In 2018, Staying Put: An Unfulfilled Promise was published and Government were asked to review and fund Staying Put Placements It should be guaranteed that post-18 arrangements will not be financially detrimental to foster carers. This may mean the carer receiving a reduced allowance whilst the young person is away from home, but the payment should still cover the reasonable costs of continuing to support them and of preserving a home for them.
Further reading via links : The government has given a £10m boost for the Staying Put scheme
In a report last year, the Fostering Network said that many Staying Put arrangements that were otherwise acceptable had been prevented, mainly because the former foster carers could not afford the drop in income; Staying Put allowances tend to be lower than fostering allowances even when benefits that the young person can claim are taken into account.
Jayne Robbins – A Foster Carers Blog