In this spotlight, an 18 year old TACT young person advocates making every council in the country familiar with the Staying Put scheme.
What are you doing now? What are your plans for the future?
At the moment I am living with my former foster parents and am at university studying policing and criminal justice. My plans are to continue on this course up to the end, then get a job in the police force. My long-term goal is to become a detective. I want to join the police force because I have always had a high respect for what the police do as a job and think it’s something I’d be good at.
What was your experience of leaving care? Your preparation for leaving care?
My experience of leaving care was very formal. A few days before my birthday the local authority came and gave me all the information I needed to go onto the Staying Put scheme. At that point it was like ‘Here you go, you’re still in care’. Two days later is was like ‘you’re not our business anymore, go off and do your own thing’.
I felt supported enough, because I’ve been living with my foster carers for 10 years. They were behind me all the way, helping me with every little step. But I could have been supported more by the local authority. Nobody seemed to know much about the Staying Put scheme, so couldn’t give me all the information I needed. I don’t think that many people have the knowledge to help me, or anyone else in my position, with the transition to Staying Put.
I didn’t feel pressured to leave care when I turned 18 because my foster carers were with me all the way. But if I had been in different circumstances where I had to move out, that would have affected my college course and stopped me from going to university and going for the job I want to get.
If you were Prime Minister what would you change about the leaving care model in this country?
If I were Prime Minister I would make the Staying Put scheme known to every single council. It seems that not all councils know about Staying Put, or don’t recognise it. I would make it well known across the whole country.
I would also make sure care leavers had more practical support in sorting out the arrangements for Staying Put. I would have liked a social worker there with me when I was filling in all the forms for income support and housing benefit, to help me fill them in the in the right way and help me get the support I should be getting in the first place. It’s quite hard when you a have to go between the benefits centre and the social worker all the time. It would have been easier if my social worker and I had gone to the benefits centre together.
I don’t think there should be a set age for leaving care. A time of year makes more sense if you are in education. It should be around August, after you have finished college. This would be easier and smoother, and give people time to finish their course. That way you wouldn’t have to worry about having to drop out of your course just because you get dropped by your local council when you turn 18.
What should happen to young people in foster care when they turn 18?
It’s a hard question to answer. In some cases it may not be possible for them to stay put because their foster carer might need to take on another child for money. After all foster carers shouldn’t have to lose out financially.