A PIONEERING fostering scheme in North Yorkshire is celebrating a major milestone.

North Yorkshire County Council's Staying Put initiative, which enables 18 to 21-year-olds to stay in foster care, has now supported 100 people.

The authority was one of the first areas to pilot the scheme in 2008 and has seen it go from strength to strength.

Staying Put recognised that leaving a caring and secure foster home at 18 can be frightening for a young person, and distressing for the carers.

NYCC's efforts to plug this gap have been recognised as a beacon of good practice.

More than 80 per cent of the council’s Staying Put young people are in, or have completed, further or higher education, which is double the national average for young people leaving the care system.

Cllr Janet Sanderson, executive member for children’s services, said: “The Staying Put programme is a priority for us.

"It supports our most vulnerable young people by enabling them to stay with their foster families at a critical time in their lives.

"This gives them continuity and stability, so they have the chance to achieve to the best of their ability and go on to get qualifications and skills that will help them build a fulfilling future.

“And the fact that so many of our families are happy to maintain their relationship with the young person in their care shows just how fulfilling an experience people find fostering an older child to be.”

Eight North Yorkshire care leavers graduated last summer, one with a first class honours degree, while 11 are studying at various universities, including Cambridge, Leeds, York and Edinburgh.

Following the success of the pilot, Staying Put is now funded nationally by the Government, which pledged £40m over three years in 2014.

The plan has been described by children’s charities as “the most significant reform for children in care in a generation”.

NYCC has been selected by the Government to become one of six partner authorities to share good practice in children’s services at a national level.

Children and families minister Edward Timpson, who grew up with 90 fostered brothers and sisters, said: “This is a real milestone moment for the Staying Put scheme.

"I know from my own experience that fostering has a life-changing impact on children, and I am delighted that so many young people are now staying with their foster families in North Yorkshire beyond the age of 18.

“I would urge anyone who believes they have the skills needed to become a foster carer to contact North Yorkshire County Council without delay, and take the first steps towards the challenge and joy of becoming a foster carer.”

For more information on fostering, visit www.northyorks.gov.uk/fostering or call 01609 534654.