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Thousands more young people will soon receive additional crucial support when leaving care as today, 21 September 2023, the government announces 27 new local authorities to join the

staying close programme.

The staying close programme provides a package of continued support and guidance to young people leaving care. This includes ensuring they have accommodation, resources and practical and emotional help provided by a member of staff from their former children’s home, to help them thrive as independent adults.

The 27 local authorities have been awarded £27 million to run the staying close programme, taking the programme to a total of 47 local authorities nationally, worth £53 million overall. This funding means more care leavers than ever before will have access to this support.

To further demonstrate the government’s commitment to supporting the most vulnerable children, it has today launched a consultation, seeking feedback on the national advocacy standards and statutory guidance. The standards seek to improve advocacy provision for children in care and care leavers and address gaps and barriers to services, to ensure all voices are heard.

The government also introduced a new standard on non-instructed advocacy for very young and non-verbal children and young people. These updates set expectations for what high quality advocacy provision should look like and place the voice of children and young people at the heart of the system.

Today’s updates are part of the government’s continued work to improve children’s social care, as set out in the children’s social care strategy, stable homes, built on love. Backed by £200 million over the next two years, the ambitious and wide-ranging strategy will transform the current care system to focus on more early support for families, reducing the need for crisis response at a later stage.

Children and Families Minister, David Johnston, said:

We are making significant strides in our ambition to transform children’s social care services for some of our most vulnerable children and young people across the country.

At the heart of today’s developments are the needs of children in care and care leavers. Our work on advocacy standards will make sure they’re listened to and supported, while the fantastic Staying Close programme is helping give them the tools they need to thrive as young adults.

Today, the department has also published the government’s responses to 2 consultations: the first response on the overall strategy for transforming children’s social care, stable homes, built on love, and the second on the national framework and dashboard. The national framework, when published later this year, will clarify expectations and outcomes for what local authorities should achieve in children’s social care.

Stable homes, built on love responds to recommendations made by 3 independent reviews - the Independent Review of Children’s Social Care, the National Panel’s review into the murders of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes and Star Hobson, and the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) report.

Stable homes, built on love set out how we will help families overcome challenges, keep children safe, and make sure children in care have stable loving homes, long-term loving relationships, and opportunities for a good life.

The strategy outlines 6 pillars of support to achieve this, which includes bolstering family help, bettering multi-agency working, better supporting children in care and care leavers, and ensuring the children’s care system continuously learns and improves, making better use of evidence and data.