April 1 is always a risky day to announce the introduction of sweeping changes to social policy affecting thousands of people. However, the Scottish Government’s introduction of major changes benefiting children in care was, fortunately, no joke. From April 1, all teenagers in residential, foster or kinship care are able to remain in their care setting until 21.
TACT was delighted when Staying Put was introduced in England in 2014. Staying Put allows care leavers to remain with their former foster carers until 21 and requires local authorities to provide arrangements for this to happen. One year later, similar measures have been introduced in Scotland. Similar, but going considerably further.
While England has only expended for those in foster care, Scotland is improving arrangements for all children in care.
Additional support has also been made available for care leavers until the age of 26. Finally, and crucially, new corporate parenting responsibilities will include accountability and reporting requirements. This is particularly important, as the danger with new requirements introduced through legislation is the creation of a gap between national policy and local implementation.
The Scottish Government is to be congratulated. Its approach has seen the benefit not only extended to all in care, but also allows for support years after leaving care. The temptation for Governments is always to take the plaudits for the introduction of new measures, while seeking to save expenditure through the limitation of eligibility. By taking such an all-encompassing and broad brush approach, the Scottish Government has demonstrated an admirable commitment to the wellbeing and future of children in care.
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