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 3: Principles In Action


42. Across Scotland there are a number of examples of innovative practice, where localities have supported looked after children and young people to remain in existing care settings, make graduated transitions, or to return to previous care settings (either on a planned or ad-hoc basis). These strategies have helped to maintain supportive relationships, and properly prepare young people for independence and adult life; the aims of Staying Put Scotland.

Staying Put in Family Placements

43. Many local authorities are enabling looked after young people to remain with their existing foster carers beyond the age of 18 years by facilitating a change of placement from 'foster care' to 'supported carer' or 'supported lodging'. This can involve the dual registration of carers as both 'foster carer' and 'supported carer', ensuring a greater sense of security for all concerned.

44. Young people who have experienced multiple placement changes are more likely to leave care early. [18] If foster carers are to continue to maintain existing placements and relationships with looked after children and young people for longer, clearly this changes the expectations of the role and highlights the need for specific additional support relating to local authority's throughcare and aftercare responsibilities.

Supported Carer Service
South Ayrshire Council

We promote a philosophy of care across the service. This includes assessments, referrals and reviews. The Getting It Right For Every Child model we use ensures that our young people have a Pathway Plan or Support Plan to meet their individual needs.

Sustaining established relationships is an important factor for all young people. The Staying Put agenda is promoted in this authority for young people currently in care. Foster care placements can be converted to supported care placements, allowing continued contact with their foster carers and providing continuity as they move forward into adulthood.

Young people are able to have stability and ongoing support as they move onto independence at their own pace and be supported to make the transition to adulthood in a more gradual way. Other young people rely on their own families at this age and stage of their lives.

Positive corporate parenting is also a major consideration of our practice. Examples of this include, paying retainer fees for placements when young people are in the army or at university.

Health support is integral and the nurse in our team provides general health assessments, advice and referrals onto specialist services. Other service areas include: mental/emotional health, sexual advice, substance misuse, advice in relation to self-harm, anxiety, anger, depression and stress.

The team also has a Literacy and Numeracy worker who has worked with young people on many varied areas, including supporting them with their driving theory.

The Youth Housing Support Group ( YHSG) underpins effective multi agency working key partners including STEP, Quarriers, YPST, Housing & Health. This whole system approach aims to achieve positive outcomes for some of our most vulnerable young people, providing accommodation as the cornerstone to help them to fulfill their potential and become valuable contributors to their communities.

One of the strengths is that young people can return to supported carers if they do not manage independent accommodation at the first try. YHSG provides early interventions, outreach and transitional support to placement to bolster them if required. Young people are also supported on the next stage of their journey, for example onto temporary or permanent tenancies.

45. Developing the capacity of foster carers to respond to and meet the needs of looked after children and young people by providing ongoing support and learning is critical. For example, providing foster carers with information and training on the importance of 'permanence' - at an early stage - can help to prepare them for a situation where a young person wishes to remain with them into adulthood.

46. It is also important that the recruitment of carers emphasises the potential longer-term commitment that may be involved in caring for a child or young person. A clear, shared expectation between carers, agencies and children themselves is critical.

Staying Put
West Dunbartonshire Council

Underpinning the development of the throughcare/aftercare service in West Dunbartonshire are the key principles of:

  • Going the extra mile,
  • Is this good enough for my child,
  • Leaving care is a process and not a single event

The service is built on making and sustaining positive relationships with young people which involves:

  • talking,
  • sharing information,
  • planning and providing accommodation options with support, beyond residential and foster care placements.
  • continuity in the throughcare staff group during this time which has enabled the service provided to young people preparing to leave care.

Delayed discharges from residential care are the norm and foster placements can continue routinely until 21 years.

A mainstream tenancy is not the first option on leaving care with supported lodgings placements being a positive and successful choice by many young people over many years.

Access to temporary furnished flats which, if problematic, can result in a return to supported lodgings to build more skills and confidence.

West Dunbartonshire adopt a "trampolines and safety nets approach" since it is clear that young people need more than one opportunity to try things out as they make their way in the world today.

They also enjoy strong working relationships with a range of partners with the aim of supporting young people to achieve the best outcomes possible in all aspects of their lives.

The Pathway Plan approach covers the many important aspects which must be addressed as young people prepare to move on from residential or foster care.

There has been a strong emphasis on an investing to save approach and using the positive experiences of young people who have benefited from the service as peer educators and in talking heads DVDs.

47. Local Authorities and their corporate parenting partners will also want to ensure that any conversion of placement type does not threaten the stability of the placement by creating financial problems for the carer. Procedures should be put in place which acknowledge the on-going needs of the carer, but also the potentially changing financial position of the young person.

48. We know that placement stability is vitally important, and multiple placement moves is one of the key negative issues highlighted by looked after young people. Proactive and ongoing emotional and practical support must be provided throughout the transition from one setting to another.

Leaving Care Service
Glasgow City Council

The Resource Prioritisation Screening Group ( RPG) provides city-wide screening, prioritisation and allocation of resources for some of Glasgow's most vulnerable young people (16 - 25 years of age). All young people requiring supported accommodation are screened for planned placements to ensure appropriate options are considered based on assessed needs. RPG takes account of emergency placements, which considers both care leavers and homeless young people. There is no limit to how often young people can be screened and re-accommodated.

There are a range of accommodation providers which Glasgow has commissioned to deliver supported accommodation, with links to about 30 different services including Local Authority managed Supported Carers, small 4 and 9 bed core accommodations offering 24hr support, larger semi-independent units and specialised services through the voluntary and independent sector.

Working with Partners

Central Leaving Care team work closely with the Supported Accommodation providers. There is partnership commitment to supporting the RPG principles and process and participate in the panel. The 16+ units and homeless duty service link with the central LCS duty team to ensure placement prioritisation and progression is effective and responsive to the needs of emergency placement requests wherever possible.

The working relationship between the central LCS and the children and families/Homeless commissioning team is an essential component in ensuring the systems, services and feedback from young people and professional staff are interlinked when revising practice and planning. The Provider 16+ Managers and Youth Homeless services meet during the year with the LCS Manager to discuss new plans or shared issues.

Supported Carer Scheme

Provides direct accommodation and support to young people leaving care or who have left care. Offers young people aged between 16 - 25yrs the opportunity to develop confidence and skills to live independently within a family or single person household.

Currently have a 100 carer households offering accommodation capacity for 147 places to young people; including 20 mother and baby placements and some respite facility. Service matches young people with carers, accommodates young people with challenging behaviours who are in need of care and support. Carers are expected to support and participate in the pathway plan, communicate with agency staff and respect the right of young people as young adults to make decisions and make mistakes. This is viewed as one of our intensive support services for Care Leavers. All young people are considered for supported carers and encouraged to think about this option as part of their leaving care plan.

While this is an adult care placement we employ clear scrutiny, training and supervisory arrangements as would be expected with foster carers. Dual registration of Foster Carers to supported carers is an established practice in Glasgow, with clear procedures set out for staff guidance and standards.

Recent agreement has been reached in principle between Glasgow and the network of fostering providers to extend our dual registration arrangement for purchased carers who wish to continue caring for young people into their early adulthood. This is a significant development supporting a continuum of care for young people and reducing the need to transfer care/support placement at such crucial stages in their lives.

Staying Put in Group Care Settings

49. Group care is a key resource for looked after young people. To be effective and successful it must reflect a strong shared philosophy of care, and a positive culture which promotes a sense of connection and belonging. There are specific challenges in establishing opportunities to either 'stay put in' or 'return to' group care settings. However as the examples below illustrate, it is possible. Corporate parents - in partnership with the Care Inspectorate - should work to make these arrangements routine, and not the exception.

Lothian Villa
East Lothian Council

Lothian Villa is a 6-bed local authority children's house. They have developed and embedded a clear underpinning philosophy of care demonstrated through consistent leadership and child-centered practice. This includes:

  • Extending care placement to reflect a realistic notion of independence not based on chronological age, but stage of development
  • Applying a continuity of direct care into aftercare work - key work support from the service during care continues into aftercare situation
  • Awareness of staff about problematic transitioning of young people and to pace change better to help young people cope better
  • Unit staff provide support with decoration and furnishing aftercare accommodation
  • Continuity of care maintained in former resident regular participation in unit life with regular visits
  • Provision of a "closed group" Facebook aftercare support page with contributions from staff and former residents - pictures, reminisces, stories from young people's time in care
  • Residential crisis support - practical assistance if former resident is in crisis i.e. electricity/ gas has run out - unit can assist with food, fuel and direct crisis support
  • Regular meetings with aftercare young people- "Lothian Villa Monday football night" supports and facilitates continued relational bonds after direct care
  • Aftercare and staff nights out both at Christmas and Edinburgh Festival
  • Anniversary remembrances (birthday's Christmas, special events); presents/cards still bought by staff
  • Aftercare invitations to have Christmas Dinner/New Year Dinner with staff and current residents
  • Unit remains as support for phone calls and support for former residents needing to contact external agencies - Housing/Health/Benefits
  • Former young people's pictures remain on the walls in Lothian Villa - of unit holiday's - also put on Face Book
  • Close liaison with East Lothian Aftercare Team - close collaboration on any problematic issues.

As a result of this type of support practitioners and care leavers have found that:

  • crises for former residents are fewer and less frequent;
  • ex-residents are not isolated and lonely;
  • referrals about ex-residents children are rare, and supported by Lothian Villa staff if needed;
  • child protection enquiries are lower; and
  • the well-being of ex-residents far better as they are supported in continued relationships of trust & support.

"Continued support facilitates independence"

50. The ability to remain within an education setting for the full period of secondary education may go some way to mitigating the impact of previous unsettled education, and redress poor educational outcomes. The stability and security offered by 'staying put in residential (education) settings' will enable young people to better realise their potential, particularly in relation to formal qualifications and employment prospects.

51. Therefore, local authorities - and their corporate parenting partners - will want to ensure that all looked after young people are encouraged, enabled and empowered to remain in their education setting until the age of 18 years (whether or not this is a residential setting) in all but the most exceptional of circumstances.

52. Corporate parents will also want to ensure that the education settings in which looked after young people are placed are able to demonstrate their partnership working with further and higher education establishments, training providers and employers.

Residential Services
Inverclyde Council

As Corporate Parents Inverclyde has, over the last 10 years, developed its residential services with a clear understanding and philosophy of care. The ethos is to establish a culture of nurture and permanence within residential child care. Young people will remain accommodated until they are equipped and prepared to move on. The average age for young people moving on to independent accommodation in the last 5 years is 18.5 years. Care placements are extended until the assessed needs can be met outwith the units. This is not based on chronological age, rather the individual's preparedness. This is evidenced in practice as follows:

  • individuals will continue to be supported by unit staff/foster carers after they leave care. This continuity of relationships provides a greater sense of security to the young people.
  • young people are encouraged to return to the unit for support. This may be practical, emotional or social.
  • young people are offered support in crisis situations e.g. when feeling unsafe, without food, electricity etc., feeling isolated. They can come to the unit and stay overnight or alternatively workers will go out and provide support within the community.
  • practical support with decoration, furnishing, shopping etc. when young people move into own accommodation is provided by the workers from the units.
  • there is regular, ongoing contact from named individuals to provide support in line with agreed plan of care.
  • invitations are extended to Christmas dinners, Sunday lunch, and birthday celebrations etc.
  • care leavers with children are encouraged to maintain contact with unit staff who continue to provide support e.g. assisting with babysitting, helping organise baby showers, encouraging attendance at health appointments etc.
  • young people will, if required, continue to receive support from the LAAC nurse as if they retain the status as accommodated young people
  • support continues to be available from the LAAC teaching staff, if required.

This ethos extends to the authority's fostering service where young people remain within the 'family home' often converting the status of foster carer to that of supported carer. As a result of these interventions care leavers:-

  • appear to have greater emotional intelligence and personal resilience
  • are less likely to experience crisis over time.
  • have improved self-esteem.
  • are less isolated and feel supported
  • are able to continue with their meaningful relationships and with previous carers.
  • have improved health outcomes
  • are less likely to be involved in offending behaviour.

53. Corporate parents should ensure that appropriate reciprocal arrangements for the provision of throughcare and aftercare support are in place for young people placed out-with their home local authority. In some cases these young people may wish to remain in the host authority area, and placing authorities have a responsibility to make a range of post-care accommodation and support options available to them in their chosen locality. This may involve negotiation with independent providers and the host authority, and this should be considered at the outset of transition planning for the young person.

Sycamore Services

Sycamore is a community based cluster of residential, education and Fostering Services. Sycamore provides consistent, safe and therapeutic care and education support for children and young people aged five to eighteen. We are committed to remaining involved and available to young people throughout their lives, specifically with additional support from our Throughcare & Aftercare team.

We have recently completed a Practice Manual which provides a description of our practice (developed over the past 30 years) which is grounded in relevant research and theory. Social Pedagogy provides an ethical, values-driven and relationship based approach to practice.

Aberlour Fostering support a team of volunteer Befrienders who build and maintain positive relationships with the children and young people throughout their stay and thereafter.

Continued support and contact with children and young people before, during and after their stay within the Service is provided in partnership with our Throughcare & Aftercare Team:

We have always embraced the philosophy which has historically been described as 'once a Sycamore child always a Sycamore child'. This is expressed through continued relationships and an understanding that we are always available to offer help and support. Our Aftercare Team offer both crisis and ongoing support to a broad range of adults and young people who have previously lived with us.

Access to our Family Resource Flats and Independent Training House where young people can return to the stay in both planned and emergency situations.

Young people who have lived with us continue to contribute to the Service through involvement in, for example, staff interviews, Service Reviews and voluntary work.

Our Aftercare Workers maintain contact and support at important times for the young people. These include birthdays, Christmas, hospital stays and medical appointments, prison and Court appearances, accommodation moves, the birth of a child, College placements and interviews. Supporting young people to cope with the many transitions of life as they learn to cope 'interdependently' in the community.

We have an understanding that 'a door is always open' approach makes accessing support more manageable, flexible and adaptive for our young people.

Working within established relationships provides consistency and continuity to our children and young people.

54. The suite of ' We Can and Must Do Better' training materials set out clear expectations for managers in educational and residential establishments in Scotland, which dovetail with this Staying Put Scotland guidance. The materials encourage us to raise our educational aspirations for looked after children and young people by promoting a holistic consideration of individual circumstance and potential. The role of external management in supporting and informing this approach is critical; for further guidance on the role of the external manager, please see National Guidance for External Managers of Residential Child Care.

Criminal Justice

55. Research consistently shows that care leavers are over represented in the criminal justice system. This is therefore an area in which further information and guidance is likely to be of benefit. However till that guidance is available, local authorities, the Scottish Police Service and the Scottish Prison Service - as corporate parents - will wish to ensure that care leavers are identified within the criminal justice system at key points: arrest; detention; and discharge. Once identified, all corporate parents will wish to ensure that care leavers continue to receive access to necessary throughcare and aftercare support services. This is particularly important at the point of arrest; throughout any period of detention and, critically, prior to and at the point of discharge.

Alternative Pathways to Adulthood

56. The principles which underpin this guidance do not apply exclusively to young people accommodated by a local authority. Local Authorities - and their corporate parenting partners - should consider how the principles outlined in this guidance apply to children with disabilities, those looked after at home, and those accessing respite provision. These young people should continue to receive the same access to throughcare and aftercare support services as their peers.

57. In addition, adult services will want to ensure that they are fully meeting and reflecting their corporate parenting responsibilities to care leavers in all areas of service design and delivery. For instance Health trusts and Community Health Partnerships will want to demonstrate that Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services ( CAMHS) fully embrace the philosophy and principles of this guidance by ensuring that the transitions of care leavers between children and adult services are proactively and positively managed. CAMHS will want to demonstrate the ongoing engagement of care leavers in accessing psychological services through this transition process.

58. Regardless of ultimate destination all looked after young people should be encouraged, enabled and empowered to remain in positive care settings, maintaining and enhancing supportive relationships until such time as they are ready to begin a graduated and extended transition towards adulthood.


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