NEWS that children in foster care can stay with their foster families until they are 21 has been welcomed on behalf of Worcestershire’s 652 looked after children.

The government announced last week that teenagers in England will no longer be forced to leave foster families at 18.

Instead, local authorities will receive £40 million over the next three years and there will be a new legal obligation for councils to provide financial support so teens can be supported into early adulthood if they choose.

It means young people in care can leave their foster families when they feel ready, rather than at a pre-determined age limit.

Heather Griffin from Redditch, foster mum to Matt, aged 17, welcomed the news.

She said: “I’m always very careful not to make the decision for these teenagers.

“They must make their own decisions but after 20 years of fostering I see that a lot of them aren’t ready at 18 to move on, especially if they are in education.

“They need support until they have finished higher education.”

Liz Eyre, the Worcestershire County Councillor with responsibility for children and families, said Worcestershire had been lobbying for the move.

She said: “We have got 652 children and this is giving us the funding to enable them to stay on with foster carers until they are 21 which I think is the right thing to do.

“Children that are in foster care had issues in their lives which has made them more vulnerable.

“Leaving care at 18 can be disruptive to their education, they leave just before they take their A levels. It can be harsh.

She added: “There are informal links to their foster carers but there’s nowhere for them to go at Christmas or holidays.”

The measure will be introduced during the third reading of the Children and Families Bill next year.

To find out more about fostering in Worcestershire, contact 0800 028 2158.