Staying put Scotland: providing care leavers with connectedness and belonging

Guidance on making care planning decisions that prioritise relationship-based practice, as well as extended and graduated transitions.

Section 1: Context

7. This guidance has been developed in response to concerns about consistently poor outcomes for care leavers, with high rates of homelessness and low levels of engagement in education, training or employment. The Looked After Children Strategic Implementation Group ( LACSIG) invited a number of stakeholders to identify priority actions in respect of Throughcare and Aftercare. After extensive consultation with young people and service providers it was decided to focus, in the first instance, on issues relating to accommodation for care leavers. These were seen as being critical to the success of their transition out of care, with many other outcomes (such as employment) contingent on care leavers being able to access a range of appropriate, sustainable accommodation options; including the opportunities to stay in their care placement beyond the terms of their supervision order, or to return to care placements at a later date.

8. This guidance addresses the issues relating to 'staying put' (in care placements). It should be read in conjunction with Housing Protocols for Care Leavers: Guidance for Community Planning Partnerships, which addresses staged transitions out of care placements and into semi- or fully independent living.


9. Despite considerable investment of resources and effort over recent years, data and research continues to provide evidence of poor outcomes for care leavers. This includes mortality rates (for those under the age of 26), criminal justice, mental health, homelessness and teenage parenthood. Care leavers themselves describe the significant challenges they face, with pressing financial worries, a lack of family and friend support networks and stress over employment and education all underpinned by problems with unsuitable and unstable accommodation.

10. Research clearly demonstrates that the transition period towards interdependence is when looked after young people and care leavers are at their most vulnerable. It is the time in which councils and their partner agencies, as the young people's corporate parents, can make a particularly valuable contribution to the future success of a care leaver's life. Firstly, research consistently shows that leaving care before a young person is ready for independence tends to lead to poor outcomes. [2] "Readiness" is the ability of looked after young people and care leavers to care effectively for themselves, and it covers a range of important, developmental areas: secure, positive social & support networks (including biological and extended family, if appropriate); practical skills and knowledge; engagement in education, training or employment. In each of these the young person must demonstrate the ability to make healthy life decisions.

"Educational outcomes for young adults who remained under the care and supervision of the child welfare system were much better than those of young adults who had left care". [3]

11. Guidance such as Supporting Young People Leaving Care in Scotland: Regulations and Guidance on Services for Young People Ceasing to be Looked After by Local Authorities , and high profile reports such as Sweet 16: The Age of Leaving Care in Scotland have highlighted the problem of looked after children leaving care too young. [4] Whilst the national average age for leaving home is now approximately 25 years old, the average age at which young people leave care in Scotland is 16-18 years old. [5] It is unlikely that any young person will be able to consistently demonstrate their readiness to move on to independent accommodation at such an age.

"Probably the most critical factor for children looked after is the age at which they move on from being in care to living elsewhere, compared with the population at large" [6]

12. While it is the case that some care leavers successfully manage an abbreviated and abrupt transition from care, many will not. Care leavers who have a more accelerated, compressed and abrupt transition do not, unsurprisingly, achieve the same outcomes as their non-looked after peers. [7]

"They are more likely […] to have poorer educational qualifications, lower levels of participation in post-16 education, be young parents, be homeless, and have higher levels of unemployment, offending behaviour and mental health problems" [8]

13. The pathways care leavers take in early adulthood are strongly influenced by the nature of their transition from care, and the support they receive after they leave. In order to meet our aspirations for looked after children and young people we therefore need to ensure that they are encouraged, enabled and empowered to remain in stable and secure care settings until they are ready to move on into adulthood; and that the same supports, standards and expectations are applied to them in throughcare and aftercare. This should be underpinned by a clear and positive philosophy of care - as outlined within this guidance - which emphasises young people's rights, responsibilities and entitlements.


14. It is the aim of the Scottish Government that Scotland becomes the best place in the world to grow up in. Legislation and regulation establishing the framework within which the necessary improvements are made, building services which enable all young people to realise their potential.

15. The Children (Scotland) Act 1995 focuses on the needs of children and their families. It sets out the duties and powers available to public authorities to support young people in care. The following sections relate specifically to throughcare and aftercare:

  • Section 17: the local authority has a duty to provide advice and assistance with a view to preparing a child for when he or she is no longer looked after by a local authority.
  • Section 21: sets out details of the co-operation between authorities and other bodies
  • Section 29: sets out the main local authority responsibilities to young people who leave care after school leaving age. 29(1) establishes a duty to advise, guide and assist those under 19 unless the local authority is satisfied that the young person's welfare does not require it; 29(2) there is a power to provide advice, guidance and assistance to young people between 19 and 21 who apply to the local authority, unless the authority is satisfied that the young person's welfare does not require it; 29(3) states that assistance may include assistance in kind or in cash.
  • Section 30: sets out when local authorities may give financial assistance towards the education or training expenses of those who have ceased to be looked after. This includes financial support for accommodation both during and out with term-times.

16. Published in 2009, the Supporting Young People Leaving Care in Scotland - Regulations and Guidance on Services for Young People Ceasing to be Looked After by Local Authorities sets out the detail of how support to care leavers is to be provided.

17. The Children and Young People (Scotland) Bill (as introduced to Parliament in 2013) aims to put children and young people at the heart of planning and decision making, as well as ensuring their rights are respected and outcomes are the focus of all interventions. In respect to care leavers, the Bill proposes to extend the age up to which care leavers can receive support from their local authority.

18. Local authorities currently have a statutory duty to prepare young people for when they leave care, and to provide guidance and assistance for young people who have ceased to be looked after over school age up to eighteen, and a power to do so up to twenty one. Section 60 of the Bill proposes amending the 1995 act to provide young care leavers with the right to request advice, guidance and assistance from the local authority up to twenty six years of age. In response to this request, the local authority will then be under a duty to conduct an assessment of the needs of that care leaver. If the care leaver has 'eligible needs' then the local authority must ensure that support is provided to meet those needs.

19. The proposed Children and Young People (Scotland) Bill by itself cannot ensure these challenges are met. Instead it seeks to support a significant cultural shift in the way in which corporate parents fulfill their responsibilities to their care leavers and ensure the issues our young care leavers face are addressed. It aims to put the question "is this what I would want for my child?" front and centre for all professionals and service managers.

20. The Children (Leaving Care) Act 2000 changed the system for providing services to young people leaving care in England and Wales. Its aim was to keep young people in care until they are prepared and ready to leave; to improve the assessment, preparation and planning for leaving care; to provide better personal support for young people after leaving care and to improve the financial arrangements for care leavers. Section 6, which deals with access to social security benefits for some young people leaving care, also applies in Scotland.


21. In recent years there have been a number of policies and initiatives focused on extending and improving throughcare and aftercare support to care leavers in the UK, seeking to ensure that individual's unique circumstances and vulnerabilities are identified and addressed by services. This guidance seeks to build on these policies and initiatives, including similar schemes run in Northern Ireland (Going the Extra Mile), Wales (When I'm Ready) and England (Staying Put). [9]

We Can and Must Do Better

22. In January 2007 the Scottish Executive published its response to a Ministerial Working Group on looked after children. We Can and Must Do Better was intended as a catalyst for improvement, identifying nineteen specific actions, across a range of services. The third part of the report (covering actions 12 - 14) concentrated on the importance of supporting looked after children and care leavers to become successful and responsible adults.

23. The report led to the development of a suite of learning and development materials for practitioners. These materials have recently been updated, and can be found at .


24. In October 2007 the UK Department for Children and Families funded eleven local authorities to carry out a three year pilot (involving approximately 1,100 young people) to see if better outcomes could be achieved for young people leaving care. The Right2BCared4 approach (being piloted) was based on the following principles:

  • Young people should not be expected to leave care until they are 18 years old;
  • They should have greater say in the decision making process preceding their exit from care;
  • Should be properly prepared for independent living.

25. The evaluation assessed the costs and effectiveness of processes adopted in the R2BC4 pilot sites, as well as drawing a comparison with two comparator authorities who were not part of the pilot. [10]

These Are Our Bairns

26. These Are Our Bairns, published by the Scottish Executive in September 2008, expands on the concept of the 'corporate parent', setting out in detail what is expected of organisations which have a responsibility for providing services to looked after children. For care leavers it emphasizes the need for managed, supported transitions out of children's services (and - if necessary - into adult services).

The Care Leavers Charter

27. The Care Leavers Charter was produced and published by the UK Department for Education in October 2012, but developed by young people themselves. The Charter sets out the principles that underpin good quality support for care leavers throughout their transition into adulthood. The relevant Minister, Edward Timpson, wrote to all Directors of Children's Services ( DCS) in England to ask that local authorities sign up to the Charter, and begin a discussion with children in care about what needs to be done to embed the principles into day-to-day practice. By July 2013, 110 of the 152 English local authorities had pledged to incorporate the measures in the charter into their own care leaver policies and practice.

Staying Put

28. Staying Put: Arrangements for Care Leavers Aged 18 and Above is guidance published in May 2013 by the UK Department for Education, HM Revenue and Customs, and the Department for Work and Pensions. It sets out the different frameworks and contexts which local authorities should take account of when developing a local 'Staying Put' approach ( i.e. allowing young people to remain in care placements beyond the age of 18). It reflects the learning accrued through a series of 'Staying Put' pilots, which explored the various practical issues involved in extending a placement. [11]

Access All Areas

29. Access All Areas is a policy initiative (developed by a number of prominent third sector organisations) which seeks to ensure that all government policy is properly 'care-proofed', supporting - rather than impeding - care leaver's transition into adulthood. [12] For instance where a public body has a discretionary power, care leavers should automatically be afforded a default bias in any decision making.

30. The initiative (begun in 2012) has the backing of the UK Department of Education and Cabinet Office, and the Minister for Children has actively encouraged colleagues (across both local and national government) to take note of the policy.

31. Although focused primarily on England and Wales, the Access All Areas initiative does relate to Scotland, particularly in those policy areas over which the UK Government has retained powers (such as welfare spending). In addition, the Centre for Excellence for Looked After Children in Scotland has begun to explore how the initiative could be extended through Scotland's national and local government. [13]


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