1. There is a pressing need to narrow the 'outcomes' gap between care leavers and their non-looked after peers, and one important way in which we can do that is by providing care leavers with a supportive environment for as long as they need it. The aim of this Practice Guidance is to assist local authorities and their corporate parenting partners in their development and implementation of strategies which enable care leavers to remain in secure, stable care placements (foster or residential) until such time as they are ready to move on. Strategies which emphasise young people's entitlement to support into adulthood, and which offer them the option to return to care placements, if and when they encounter difficulties.
2. This guidance does not dictate specific practice. Instead it details the principles that must underpin an effective 'Staying Put Scotland' approach, and presents a range of useful practice examples. Taken as whole, this guidance has been developed to encourage and assist organisations to change the culture in which we try to meet the needs of looked after young people and care leavers. For while not all young people will want to remain in their care placements once their supervision order comes to an end, some will, and local authorities should be able to accommodate that request. Moreover, while it is young people with the most complex needs that are perhaps the least likely to choose to stay, they are also the group most likely to benefit from the Staying Put Scotland approach.  This is not, therefore, just about making placements available. It is about working with young people to identify choices which will benefit them in the long-term.
3. A local 'Staying Put' approach will enable young people to enjoy a transition from care to adult interdependence that more closely resembles that which is experienced by other young people. End-of-care planning decisions should be based on meeting the needs of the individual, rather than age or legal status. By embedding the principles and values outlined in this guidance, corporate parents will help to achieve that, creating the conditions for improved practice and positive outcomes.
4. As the Care Inspectorate's statement above makes clear, the Staying Put Scotland approach can be realised within the existing regulatory framework. Providers of services are therefore expected to demonstrate their implementation of this guidance through the course of regular self-audit and inspection. The Scottish Government may also undertake research to monitor and evaluate the implementation of this guidance.
5. Enabling young people to remain in - or return to - their care placements will pose challenges for services. It will require a flexible approach from all those with corporate parenting duties and responsibilities, including local authorities, independent care providers and the Care Inspectorate. Service managers should note that the Scottish Government and the Centre for Excellence for Looked After Children in Scotland ( CELCIS) stand ready to assist them in their efforts to turn 'Staying Put Scotland' into reality.
6. The guidance is divided into three parts. The first section provides background to the issues often faced by care leavers, and summarises the legislative and policy context. The second section sets out principles of the Staying Put Scotland approach. All relevant organisations will want to ensure that these principles are understood and implemented by their staff and partners. A number of local authorities have contributed directly to this guidance, providing examples of how creative and innovative practice can extend a young person's journey out of care, improving both their experience of - and outcomes from - the transition. These examples have been included in the third section , helping to illustrate how the principles outlined in this guidance can be translated into practice across a variety of different placement settings, and service areas.
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