In an apparent reversal of its earlier position, the government is now considering allowing young people to remain in children’s homes till the age of 21.
Officials from the Department for Education will work with the National Children’s Bureau, social services charity Catch 22 and the Who Cares? Trust to consider the practical issues of such a change. Children’s Minister Edward Timpson told fellow MPs that they would be looking “at the practical issues of introducing staying-put arrangements in children’s homes over the coming year”.
“Staying-put arrangements” would allow children to stay in residential foster care till the age of 21, Children & Young People Now reports. But these, Mr Timpson told parliament, raised a number of “practical and legal issues”.
“A key barrier would be having vulnerable adults living alongside much younger vulnerable children.”
“Given that most children’s homes are now very small – typically two, three, or four beds – extending staying put could result, for example, in a home accommodating two or three care leavers and one child. In this case it could not be registered as a ‘children’s home’, as it would mainly be an establishment accommodating young adults, which could cause difficulties for the only child living there.”
The Minister continued:
“For the same reason, Ofsted would not have any legal scope to regulate and inspect this service.”
However, these issues were not “insurmountable barriers”, he added.
Just last month the government announced that children living with foster families would be allowed to stay with their carers till the age of 21, but shortly afterwards Education Secretary Michael Gove said this would not apply to those living in care homes.