The Foster Care Co-operative (FCC) has won a prestigious national co-operative award!
FCC were shortlisted for the Inspiring Co-operative of the Year Award, one of five presented by Co-operatives UK – an organisation that promotes, develops and unites member-owned businesses throughout the UK. They went on to win the award at the annual Co-op Congress Event in London on 23rd June.
Steve Field, FCC’s Director of Child Care, said: "We are delighted that the hard work, care and commitment from the foster carers, children and staff have been recognised through the award for most inspiring Co-op. It is a testament to their dedication in ensuring better outcomes for children in need of care whilst keeping values based on Integrity, Ethics, Quality and Co-operation."
The Foster Care Co-operative was founded in 1999 by an ex-Deputy Director of Social Services and foster carer. He wanted to go further than simply establishing a not-for-profit fostering agency – and so chose the model of multi-stakeholder and common ownership and registered the company as a co-operative. Since then, the model has proved hugely beneficial. Due to no involvement from distant shareholders or investors, FCC’s members on the ‘shop floor’ have always been given a clear voice within the organisation. This has made the organisation transparent and responsive to change – particularly at a policy level. It has also created a culture of greater democracy.
Simply put, The FCC has given its staff, carers and children the opportunity to contribute to the running of the organisation.
In 2016, FCC consulted with the children and young people in their care to help them redesign a children’s section of FCC’s website. Young people got to vote on the site name, and what they would like to see featured. The area, now called Kidz Zone, offers regular competitions, a chance to become an FCC ‘guest reporter’, to upload any artwork they have done – and to be able to reach FCC’s own Kidz Rep, if they need to talk to someone.
Foster carers are also given the opportunity to become involved in hiring decisions within the organisation – and often attend first rounds of interviews. They also attend foster carer recruitment events, bringing valuable experience, insight and advice to perspective applicants.
This involvement of all parties truly embodies the co-operative approach - making them transparent, ethical and above all child-centred from a management level to the very children they provide care for.
FCC remains the only not-for-profit fostering agency operating as a co-operative in the UK – making them truly unique. Any surplus income is reinvested to provide more training and support for their foster carers. The organisation has grown steadily and organically and now has teams situated throughout England and Wales - with offices in Malvern, Cardiff and Manchester.
To find out more about Co-operative organisations, visit www.uk.coop
Today the Westminster Government formally announced how it will introduce the 15 extra hours of free childcare for fostered children in England from September. Responding to the announcement, Kevin Williams, chief executive of The Fostering Network said: ‘We warmly welcome this announcement which comes following a campaign led by The Fostering Network and our supporters. We were dismayed when we first realised that fostered children aged three and four in England were initially excluded from the additional 15 hours of free childcare a week that had been made available to parents since September 2017. Today’s announcement is an important milestone in rectifying that exclusion and we welcome the receptiveness of the Department for Education to our campaigning.
'We have been working closely with the Government to assist their development of this new policy – especially given there are particularly complexities for foster carers. We know that not all foster carers will be eligible (which is also the case for birth parents) and that the 15 extra hours will not be appropriate for all fostered children, but to automatically have been excluded was discriminatory and inexplicable. We believe that it should be left to the judgment of the foster carer and the social worker as to whether taking up these extra hours is appropriate for the child or not.
'We also believe that some foster carers, particularly family and friends carers and those offering long-term fostering, will need or want to combine fostering with work outside of the home because they already have a job when they start fostering, they want to model going to work, they enjoy working or, because of financial pressures, they have to go to work. This extension of the 15 extra hours to foster carers will enable them to be able to do so. This is particularly good news for the recruitment of foster carers and is consistent with the message from Government that fostering can be combined with other work.'
Young care leavers in west Norfolk will benefit from a new housing scheme and package of support that will help them to make the transition from their children’s home to independent adult living with the opening of the first ‘Staying Close, Staying Connected’ home in Kings Lynn. The house was officially opened by Jarone Macklin-Page, age 29 (a Break care leaver and Actor) on Friday 18 May. It will be home to three young care leavers.
Staying Close, Staying Connected is a partnership between regional children’s charity Break, Norfolk County Council and Cambridgeshire County Council. The aim is to change the way young care leavers are supported, by putting a framework around them when they leave their children’s home including housing, peer-to-peer support, mentoring, help with independent living skills and emotional support. Young care leavers have traditionally been some of the most vulnerable young people in society experiencing high levels of homelessness, isolation and mental health issues. ‘Staying Close, Staying Connected’ aims to address these issues and to fulfil the role of an extended family for young care leavers, supporting them for as long as they need.
The project focuses on young people from Cambridgeshire and Norfolk but it is hoped that it will become nationally recognised as best practice in support for young care leavers moving on from residential care.
The scheme has been made possible by a grant of 1.3 million awarded to Break by the Children’s Social Care Innovation Fund which aims to develop more effective ways of supporting vulnerable children, specifically those leaving children’s homes.
The project aims to open 20 houses in the next two years supporting 70 young people across the region.
Rachel Cowdry, Director of Business Development at Break says “This is a landmark moment for this very important project that will transform radically the support for young care leavers. We are really excited to be able to work in partnership with Norfolk County Council and Cambridgeshire County Council to support some of the most vulnerable young people in our communities. Break has already been supporting our own care leavers for six years through our Moving On Team and this builds on the experience we have built up in this area. The need to support young people who have lived in care has been evident for many years. These young adults are much more likely, than their peers, to struggle in all aspects of their lives such as finding and sustaining work, physical and mental health, and building positive relationships.”
Children’s charity Barnardo’s has appointed Sagar Sharma as Director of Policy and Communications.
Sagar is currently Head of Strategic Communications (International) in the Prime Minister’s and Cabinet Office Communications team. His previous roles include Head of Communications for Criminal Justice System Reform, Chief Press Officer at the Ministry of Justice, Head of Strategic Communications in southern Afghanistan, and Head of Policy and Communications for the Department for International Development across South Asia.
Sagar has two decades of experience in using communications to achieve organisational objectives and drive policy outcomes, and has a developed network in the UK and around the world.
"Barnardo's does an incredible job supporting some of the most vulnerable children in our society, having a positive impact across the UK. I'm privileged to be joining a truly passionate and talented team, and look forward to delivering against an ambitious agenda in the coming years."
Javed Khan, CEO of Barnardo’s said:
"We are very much looking forward to Sagar joining us and leading our dedicated policy and communications team. Sagar has extensive senior experience leading strategic communications alongside media management, staff engagement and digital engagement. He has a strong track record in large and complex organisations as well as press, publicity and campaigns. We are sure his appointment will help us on our mission to highlight the vital work we do supporting vulnerable children, young people and families."
Sagar will be joining Barnardo’s at the end of July.
Last year, Barnardo’s worked with 272,000 children, young people and families at more than 1,000 services across the UK. This includes work with children who have suffered abuse and those who are at risk of sexual exploitation as well as young carers, care leavers and foster carers and adoptive parents.
Sagar Sharma can be found on twitter @ContinuingSaga
Dr. Jane Herd
As the children who are placed in foster care appear to be more troubled and vulnerable many services and commissioners begin to use the discourse of providing or requiring therapeutic placements. But what do we mean by this? Does offering a carer support group facilitated by a psychologist or direct therapy by a psychotherapist to some children make a service therapeutic?
For me providing a therapeutic service is to offer something which will allow children and young people over a period of time to experience real and lasting internal changes to the way they think, relate and feel. It is not chiefly about trying to manage or alter behaviours though this is a very useful and welcome side effect. It is about providing a complete social and relational environment in which a child’s emotional distress and way of being can be held, understood and processed. Where the adults who work with them see behaviour primarily as communication from the child or young person, about how they see the world and what it is they are struggling with and where carers can use their own thoughts and emotions to further understand and explore what might be going on for a particular child. Children will often be neurologically stressed and firstly need to feel safe and contained, they can be overwhelmed by complex thoughts and feelings which make little sense and they need help to understand these better and this all this needs to be provided within a relational context which takes account of culture, community and environment.
There are many models which can be useful in providing therapeutic care but it seems essential to consider neurological, attachment, psychotherapeutic and sociological perspectives. Whatever models are privileged children and young people require a high level of emotional containment, care and understanding but so do the carers who look after them so the therapeutic environment needs to extend from the child, to the carers and throughout the whole organisation.
Dr Jane Herd – Completed her Doctorate on Hard to Reach adolescents at the Tavistock and Portman and is the Founder of Orb8 which provides a range of services for hard to reach, traumatised and marginalised children and young people and the organisations, staff and carers who work with them email@example.com or https://www.orb8.org/
Following the release of the Children's Commissioner's Stability Index, Barnardo's has issued the following statement:
Barnardo’s Chief Executive, Javed Khan said:
"Barnardo’s knows that children who benefit from our loving, stable foster placements have often come from deeply troubled backgrounds and many have suffered neglect and physical or sexual abuse.
The number of looked after children has increased steadily over recent years and our research indicates that the complexity of cases of children in care has also risen.
Sixteen per cent of children referred to us have issues related to child sexual exploitation, 17% were unaccompanied asylum seekers or had been trafficked and 6% indicated harmful sexual behaviour.
It is essential that resources are there to support the foster carers who look after these vulnerable young people to help them avoid multiple placements. It’s also crucial that they are matched with the right family to avoid further instability.
Ongoing professional guidance must be made available as even the most motivated and resilient foster carers need the appropriate support package to help them through challenging circumstances.
As an independent fostering provider Barnardo’s recruits, trains and supports foster carers to care for some of the most vulnerable children."
Thousands of “pinball kids” are being shifted around the care system and between schools, putting them at risk of being excluded, groomed and recruited into gangs, the children’s commissioner for England has said.
Almost 2,400 children in care had to deal with a change of home, school and social worker, all in the space of a year in 2016-17, according to the commissioner’s annual stability index, which tracks the experiences of children in care.
It shows that more than 3,000 children had to move home at least four times in the past two years and about 2,500 moved home five or more times in the space of three years.
“Every day I hear from ‘pinball kids’ who are being pinged around the care system when all they really want is to be settled and to get on with normal life,” said the children’s commissioner, Anne Longfield.
“These children need stability, yet far too many are living unstable lives, in particular children entering care in their early teens. This puts them at greater risk of falling through the gaps in the schools system and opens them up to exploitation by gangs or to abuse.”
Now in its second year, the index found education was frequently disrupted, with 4,300 children in care moving schools mid-year to new schools which were 24 miles away on average. Four hundred children ended up missing a whole term as a result, while 6,500 children did not appear to be enrolled at school at all.
“These children may be temporarily out of school - perhaps because of a placement or school move - and re-entering school mid-year or they might have previously been in school but now left state education, or they might have never been enrolled,” the index reported.”
The commissioner’s advice line for children in care, Help at Hand, receives calls from children who are being moved around the system against their wishes or best interests. One 15-year-old boy was suddenly moved by the local authority without being told why or where he was going, despite the fact he had just secured a school place after 18 months out of school.
Another child, who had been placed in a children’s home near to his grandmother and school, was then moved to a placement several hours away with no plan for a new school.
There are more than 70,000 children in the care of local authorities and the figure is rising. Longfield said the index, which is based on data provided by councils, showed most children in care were being supported in stable foster families and schools but a “significant minority” were changing home and school too often.
She expressed particular concern about hundreds of children in care who were being shunted from one poor school to another, even though “looked-after” children are supposed to be given priority in school admissions. Teenagers, children with additional behavioural or emotional needs and those in pupil referral units - generally for excluded pupils - were the most likely to experience instability.
Longfield said there had been little change in the findings since last year’s index. “Over one in five children in care are not in the good or outstanding schools they should be, and I am worried that the system has given up on the hundreds of children bouncing around from one poor school to another,” she said.
“I want all local authorities to make reducing instability a priority and to measure it. I would also like to see Ofsted assessing the stability of children in care as part of their inspections and for the Department for Education to start asking for data on this in their annual returns from local authorities.
“The care system does work for many thousands of children but our ambition should be for every child growing up in care to have the same chances to live happy, healthy and rewarding lives as any other child. We put that at risk if we are expecting some children to constantly change school and home.”
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