A PLANNED change to the age young people can stay with foster families has been met with a mixed response on Wearside.
Children in care in England will be able to stay with their foster families until their 21st birthday, rather than having to leave at 18, ministers announced this week.
The Department for Education says it is imposing a legal duty on councils to provide financial support for those who want to stay longer with foster carers and has pledged £40m over the next three years to fund the plan.
But, while children’s charities, who have long campaigned for the change, are thrilled by the announcement, bosses at Sunderland City Council fear it could put added strain on the system.
Councillor Pat Smith, portfolio holder for Childrens Services on Wearside, said: “We are committed in Sunderland to providing all young people in our city with the best possible start in life that we can.
“This includes those in foster care and, while we welcome plans to support families to keep fostered young people in the family home beyond 17 years old, it will create even more pressure on the number of foster care places available.
“We already try to provide as much support as we can for young people and their foster carers in this transitional stage. We consider a range of options when young people are moving on from care including supported lodgings which allow young people aged between 17 and 21 to live in a family home environment.”
Steve Oversby, Director of Barnardo’s in the North East, said: “We are delighted that the Government has listened to our calls to improve support for care leavers until they are 21.
“This will help to ensure that young people no longer have to go it alone as soon as they turn 18. It will also mean they get the consistent stability they so vitally need.”