House of Commons Education Committee: Fostering, First Report of Session 2017-19

Over the last 5 years the Government has carried out a number of in-depth reviews, addressing topics such as adoption (2013) and social work reform (2016).  Whilst carrying out an inquiry on children’s residential care, Sir Martin Narey observed that, “Fostering is overdue a fundamental review and this should be a priority for the Department of Education”. In July 2016, the Government decided to carry out a “national fostering stocktake”, a term felt to be “impersonal and clinical” by many of those who shared their views with the committee, which resulted in ‘stocktake’ being replaced by ‘review’ throughout the first report published on the 22nd December 2017.

The report is now available on: https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201719/cmselect/cmeduc/340/340.pdf

The review concluded that the Government needs to consider the whole care system, rather than separate elements, to ensure that it continues to be “…fulfilling its purpose”. The areas identified as needing improvement will be familiar to AFA carers and include, for children and young people:

  • Ensuring “…consistency of practice and application of guidance”
  • Preventing unnecessary placement breakdowns
  • Engaging young people more effectively in their care
  • Providing easy access to meaningful advocacy services
  • Increased contact with siblings where they are placed separately
  • Promoting and funding Staying Put to support young people to remain with their carers if they wish to

The wide-ranging inquiry covered the day to day care of children and young people, through to the commissioning arrangements between independent agencies and local authorities. The recommendations relating to foster carers include:

  • The setting up of a national college with a “… standardised training and development programme”.
  • A national fostering recruitment and awareness campaign
  • An extension of the Public Interest Disclosure Act to cover whistle-blowing and to ensure carers are “…safeguarded from the consequences of malicious or unfounded accusations”
  • Changes to carer’s status of self-employed and the review of taxation rules
  • Ensuring that, at the very least, the national minimum allowance is paid
  • Targeting recruitment at those with “specific skills” or from “ethnic, religious and cultural backgrounds which are currently lacking in representation”

The review also suggests an interesting alternative to foster carers having the status of ‘professionals’, seeing them as ‘experts’ based on having, “… the greatest knowledge and deepest understanding of the child’s situation and behaviour: they are the experts. Any discussion or decision that does not include the carer must be regarded as incomplete”.

The committee identified that “Foster care provides an invaluable service to society … it is an immensely challenging role, which is performed with dedication, love and often great sacrifice by foster carers, both to themselves and their family.”

AFA acknowledge and value the skills and expertise of our foster carers, and we would like to ‘Thank You’ and your families for your amazing commitment to the children and young people placed with you.

We wish each and every one of you a very Happy New Year!

Nigel and Graeme

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