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Wiltshire Council in successful bid to deliver Staying Close programme

July 20, 2022 10:17 AM
By Wiltshire Council (edited)

Following a successful expression of interest to the Department for Education (DfE), Wiltshire Council has been allocated funding to develop a model of 'Staying Close' for Care Leavers over the next two years.

Staying Close provides an enhanced support package for young people leaving residential children's homes. It is designed to be a comparable offer to the option to 'Stay Put', which supports young people in foster care to remain with their former foster carers until 21 years of age. Staying Close is designed to support with move-on accommodation, alongside a package of practical and emotional support provided by a member of staff from their former children's home, or from someone who they know and trust.

The DfE has been funding Staying Close pilots since 2017, with five local authorities developing and delivering support packages so far. Each model is slightly different depending on the specific needs of local young people. Staying Close looks to address the 'cliff-edge' of leaving care and support a smooth transition from care into independent living. These models look to improve outcomes for care leavers who are more likely to report being lonely or isolated with high rates of poor emotional health and wellbeing. They are also more likely to become homeless with over half of care leavers experiencing homelessness at some point within the first two years after leaving care.

Wiltshire Council has been provisionally allocated £868,481 of funding to deliver the Staying Close programme. Only the first year's funding of £150,621 is guaranteed, with funding reviews in place to agree funding for 2023-24 and 2024-25. The funding will be used to build on a strong Care Leavers Offer in Wiltshire and will be co-produced with young people to ensure the model will meet their needs. The new support package will help to provide secure accommodation alongside a bespoke package of support to help care leavers develop and maintain the skills required to live independently.

The Cabinet Member for Children's Services, said: This funding will make a big difference to the experience of our care leavers, and we hope it will enable them to have a smoother transition into independent living.

Evaluations of the Staying Close pilots so far have found that young people have access to improved housing options with reduced eviction rates, and more young people are in employment or training.

This model supports our priority to ensure that young people are empowered to live full, healthy and enriched lives. We look forward to building a model that works for Wiltshire care leavers and being able to offer Staying Close to as many of our care leavers as possible.

The council will join a community of practice with the other pilot providers, working closely with the Department for Education, to share good practice and robustly evaluate the implementation of the programme.