On 24 May 2021, the government launched a consultation on ‘introducing national standards for independent and semi-independent provision for looked-after children and care leavers aged 16 and 17’. We have responded to the consultation on behalf of our network having asked for feedback – below is a narrative of some of the points covered:
Young people aged 16-17 represent 34% of the young people living in accredited Foyers and 28% of the overall Foyer population are from care backgrounds.
Foyers provide holistic support for over 2500 young people each year (aged 16-25). They combine accommodation with quality training, community activities and 1-1 support. All young people receive a 1-1 support or ‘action plan’ that guides their transition through the service to access education, health and wellbeing, training, and employment options, progressing to appropriate move on accommodation after an average stay of around 12 months.
The Foyer Federation and local Foyers in our network welcome the standards proposed in Appendix B. Young people in semi-independent settings deserve the best deal possible and well thought out standards that discourage poor provision are good news for young people who are leaving care. We believe that the standards should apply regardless of the young person’s relationship with the state, or their statutory status.
The Foyer Federation’s FOR Youth quality assurance programme and accompanying accreditation already ensures that Foyer service provision for this age range is not only fit for purpose, safe and good quality but also pushes services to trust, involve, inspire, and positively impact young people through our Advantaged Thinking approach and standards. We are particularly encouraged to see the leadership standard embedded in the framework which refers to helping ‘young people aspire to fulfil their potential’. We would encourage the government to go further with this standard and include additional statements that challenge services to work in an asset-based way – we would welcome the opportunity to input from our rich history of Advantaged Thinking knowledge and practice to support these additions.
Accredited Foyers engage in an initial year-long intensive journey of reflection, assessment and quality improvement which is independently reviewed every year by a panel of experts in supported housing. Therefore, the accredited Foyers in our membership already operate to a shared set of quality standards for accommodation, support and management and have in place all the evidence needed to meet any regulation. However, we are concerned that this regulation could add more administrative burden on Foyers at a time where staff need to optimise time with young people, especially as some services are already regulated to a degree by the Regulators for Social Housing.
A passport-type arrangement for independent quality assured service such as FOR Youth would be a sensible addition to the process that would prevent Foyers from doubling their administrative workload. In the past, the Foyer Federation held a similar passport arrangement under which accredited services were awarded level C of QAF. This successfully ensured the quality of delivery for young people while eliminating unnecessary administrative burden on staff. We would welcome the opportunity to talk further with the Department of Education about this type of passport arrangement again.
The average cost of a placement of a young person leaving care is approximately three to four times higher on average than the cost of a young person living in a Foyer. Foyers would benefit from the additional funding that care providers receive to expand their holistic offer and address any additional support needs that this age group often has. It will also cover costs relating to internal monitoring, insurance, administration, and other core costs of adhering to and reporting related to the regulation.
We would encourage the DfE to reconsider the language of ‘placement’ for a young person who is in semi-independent or independent accommodation as the young person will hold a license or tenancy agreement with additional support and therefore greater rights and responsibilities than a care placement.