Young people leaving residential care are among those with most need for ongoing emotional and practical support, but often do not have the same opportunity as their peers to access ongoing support from parents, carers or foster parents. Currently, young people in Suffolk do not usually stay local to their children’s home once they have moved on. Finding affordable and sustainable local accommodation, particularly for young people under 18, is a practical barrier to staying close.
Suffolk’s Staying Close project aims to provide options for young people that capitalise on successful peer relationships and the continuation of relationships from children’s homes. This includes individualised support set out in a placement plan, a key worker to provide on-going support and continued networking opportunities with the children’s home. Workers from our Staying Close Team provide dedicated time to the coordination and planning with the young person.
Suffolk is establishing a ‘basket of hours’ for each child, both for drawing on residential care home staff and for wider specialist support. This is being developed based on the individual needs of the young person, and can be used for things such as regular invitations back to the home for meals and activities, support with education and settling in the evening. Young people under 18 are required to prove themselves as successful tenants, under a guarantor provided by the council. If this is completed to the housing provider’s satisfaction, the property can convert to individual or joint tenancies allowing them to remain. The model encourages joint living allowing for peer support.
Suffolk is piloting arrangements in four local authority children’s homes and three homes from the private sector. The aim is to produce a model that can be replicated and developed across the county.
DfE funded independent evaluation will be published in 2020.