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The implementation of new rules and guidance for permanent foster care

Researchers: Professor Gillian Schofield | Dr Birgit Larsson

Project overview

This study investigates the implementation of the Department for Education’s Long-term Foster Care Regulations and Guidance, introduced in 2015. The same research team carried out a project entitled Care Planning for Permanence in Foster Care, which was published in 2011 and informed the DfE’s deliberations.

Although long-term foster care (LTFC) has been one of the permanence options available for children in care since the 1980s, the new regulations and guidance mark the first time that local authorities have been formally required to establish processes to place children in LTFC and support them and their foster families, with the aim of improving outcomes.

This study investigates whether and how the regulations and guidance have been implemented since their introduction by different local authorities across England. It also seeks to identify examples of good practice and any areas for concern. By mapping practice at a relatively early stage, it will provide the foundation for a potential future impact evaluation, once the regulations and guidance are fully embedded.

The first strand of work involves analysis of administrative data to explore the numbers and characteristics (including care histories) of children reported as being in LTFC placements in different local authorities. The researchers will compare the profiles of these children with those who have followed other permanence pathways, including adoption, reunification and Special Guardianship Orders, as well as those who have been classified as being in extended foster care but not permanent LTFC.

The second strand of work involves a national online survey and in-depth interviews with local authority care and fostering managers in approximately 40 local authorities, aimed at developing a detailed picture of the systems, procedures and practices being used to assess, match, review and report LTFC placements.


  • Professor Gillian Schofield
    University of East Anglia
  • Dr Birgit Larsson
    University of East Anglia

  • Ash Patel
    Programme Head, Justice
    Nuffield Foundation
  • Director, Justice
    Nuffield Foundation

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We aim to improve people’s lives by funding research that informs social policy, primarily in Education, Welfare and Justice. We also fund student programmes that give young people skills and confidence in science and research.

We are an open, collaborative and engaged funder that offers more than money. Through connecting the individual projects we fund, we strengthen their collective impact and give voice to an overarching narrative.