For many young people, university will be the first time that they’ve left home to live independently. It’ll be a pivotal moment in their lives, leaving their family and friends to pursue higher education. It will end in a degree that will make or break whether or not they reach their dream career.
But for foster children, that dream seems much more far off than for others. Only 6% of children in the fostering system make it into university. A lot of people might argue that most foster children are lazy and will never amount to anything, that they misbehave and therefore will not provide the grades for a successful application.
However, some children are in the care system and want more out of life. To break the stereotypes that they are bound by. But when they’ve lived life hearing that children in their position are less likely to do well, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. If they believe they will do badly, they will.
That’s what I did, at first. I had spent years watching crime shows, where almost all of the criminals were portrayed as people who had spent their childhoods in and out of foster care, and turned to a life of crime.
I reached 17 years old, and was almost scared to submit an application. All my friends were in the process of choosing what locations and courses they wanted to apply for, whereas I was stuck questioning whether or not it was worth it.
I was just another care kid who would never be successful.
My dreams were just that. Dreams. Fantasies that would never become real.
It took a couple of pep talks from various teachers and Lynne, my TACT foster carer, before I even entertained the idea. I submitted an application to my university of choice, did two interviews for two courses and a joint honours, and then finished my A-levels. I spent the summer worrying about what I was supposed to do with my life if I didn’t get into university.
I needn’t have worried. On the day that I was to go and pick up my A-level results, I received an email. I was with my boyfriend, just scrolling through my laptop and I must have frightened him to death, because I suddenly burst into tears.
All I could say was, “I got in!” and then I attracted the rest of the household, who all congratulated me and said that they knew I could do it.
I next called Lynne, who cheered down the phone with me and was ready with a congratulations card when she picked me up from results day.
I felt a bit ashamed of myself for a while afterwards.
Why didn’t I believe that I could get in? I was just as able as any other person my age.
Starting university, I was afraid that people would see me differently if I admitted that I was in foster care. Yet again, I needn’t have worried, as all of my peers were accepting and treated me as they did everyone else. The only difference was that my lecturers were a bit more wary of how they treated me. I was often called into their office for “meetings” with them patronisingly asking how I was doing, but this soon stopped when they realised that I wasn’t handling the course any better or worse than the rest of my classmates.
At the end of the day, I am still human. I am still just a teenager tackling the difficulties of university like any other.
The only difference between my uni friends and me is that I don’t call my parental figures ‘mum’ and ‘dad’.
I still go to all of the lectures, do all of the homework and assignments, take the same exams.
My name is Charlie, and I’m just a teenager who goes to university.
Charlie Lain, TACT Young Person
A young person living at one of our London children's homes spoke at the recent Council meeting to talk about the life journey work she has been doing with support from staff.
She was a very eloquent speaker and highlighted some of the sensitivities around being a looked after child and how teachers, care staff and other adults can behave more thoughtfully.
One thing that she raised as an issue was always providing receipts for each purchase to pass back to staff. She discussed the stigma and awkwardness of this, so SMT have committed to reviewing this in the future.
At St Christopher's we value young people's opinions and always listen to what they have to say so we can shape our services to meet their needs.
Director of Corporate Services Geneva Ellis said: "It was really helpful for Trustees and the Senior Management Team to hear the impact of being in care on a young person first-hand and how an organisation's policies affect young people."
A journal article has been published looking at St Christopher's use of Attachment Style Interviews and Vulnerable Attachment Style Questionnaire within our children's homes in England and the Isle of Man.
Oxford University Press published the paper on behalf of the British Association of Social Workers. It describes the use of ASI and VASQ in a pilot study of young people in our care.
The study's aim was to test these measures in practice contexts administered by practitioners and to determine rates of insecure and disorganised attachment style so they could be compared with other studies.
Results show around half of the young people had disorganised or mixed attachment styles. Avoidant styles were more common than anxious ones, but secure style was rare.
The study also looked at how young people and carers sometimes gave different ratings but were similar overall.
The ASI and Q-Pack enable us to get better outcomes for young people as we can offer more tailored support packages. This sets us apart from other providers and shows how we really go the extra mile to help every young person who comes to us.
Chief Executive Ron Giddens said: "This article is a testament to the innovative work that we have been able to do in partnership with our colleagues at Middlesex University."
The Government has amended the Children & Social Work Bill to ensure that local authorities must always consider both the physical and mental health of children when carrying out their duties as corporate parents.
In a series of amendments yesterday, the Government also ensured that local authorities will be obliged to reach out to care leavers and offer them the extra support the Bill provides for, rather than care leavers having to request it.
Emma Smale, Head of Policy and Research at Action for Children and Co-Chair of the Alliance for Children in Care and Care Leavers said:
"We are very pleased that the government has listened to the many concerned voices calling for important changes to the Children and Social Work Bill, changes that will promote good mental health and emotional well being in children as they grow up in care and prepare to leave it.
Action for Children has been calling for stronger requirements on councils and the NHS to consider the mental health and emotional well being of children as well as their physical health when carrying out their duties.
As part of the Alliance for Children in Care and Care Leavers, and with the support of several medical colleges, Action for Children has been calling for stronger requirements on councils and the NHS to consider the mental health and emotional wellbeing of children as well as their physical health when carrying out their duties.
The Alliance was also concerned that responsibility for receiving the additional leaving care support outlined in the Bill lay with care leavers themselves rather than with local authorities.
By incorporating several amendments on these issues the government is helping to guarantee greater focus on supporting children to recover from the psychological impact of neglect and abuse. We urge the government to go further to ensure that children’s mental health needs are picked up on and addressed early.”
A glittering awards event for Break's corporate supporters
At a glittering gala dinner at Sprowston Manor, hosted by Break patron, Jake Humphrey, 180 guests from the Norfolk business community gathered to celebrate the support given to Break to change young lives.
Michael Rooney, Head of Commercial Services and Martin Green, Fundraising Manager, welcomed the guests and followed this with a game of 'Heads & Tails' setting the tone for a great evening.
After dinner, Jake thanked everyone for their invaluable support to Break and presented the awards.
Fundraising ‘Team of the Year’ (Sponsored by Smith & Pinching)
This award is awarded to the staff or volunteer group of people, of three or more, who have gone the extra mile to support Break Charity, either independently or as ‘Charity of the Year’.
Winner - Arnolds Keys
Judges looked at their total engagement across all the areas of criteria – and this is awarded to them for their outstanding group motivation and engagement from Golf days, Valuation days, Auction event, Staff Back a cake day and the wider engagement of their office's in the community. As well as the introduction to Kieron Williamson they also sponsored and engaged in the GoGoDragon project, putting on a showcase event at Norwich castle.
Award for Innovation (Sponsored by Aspiration Europe)
This is awarded to a group, individual or organisation that has implemented a new initiative that has helped to promote the charity’s work, profile of a shared event, or helped to raise funds.
Winner - Longwater Construction
Awarded to Neil Carter, as the brain child of the Breaking Clays event, now in its fourth year and raised almost £70k for Break, and growing, whilst also giving Break a wide number of good solid contacts and supporters for future events. Photo shows Anne Ovens, Break trustee from Aspiration Europe with Jake Humphrey.
Corporate Partner of the Year
This is awarded for an outstanding partnership between a business and Break Charity, working together as part of an overall shared event, activity or goal.
Winner -Timothy Hay and The Beeston Group
Tim has been a long term supporter of Break, first coming to light with the gorillas which he sponsored and bought three at auction, this progressed to Dragons, again sponsoring and buying a number. He also donated a camping weekend for Break and has also given us a holiday home fully furnished for a year, for us to use, as well donating a caravan to two of Break’s services. Award collected on Tim's behalf by James Boudlin from The Beeston Group.
Silver Lining Long Term Supporter Award
Awarded to a group, individual or organisation that has supported Break for a period of more than five years; making a significant input into the charity to enable it to grow and develop.
Winner - Clapham & Collinge
Long term supporters working with Break for over seven years, this has helped us create a network of contacts through Lunch on the Green (LOTG) which has been developed with Clapham & Collinge. C & C also sponsored a gorilla & dragon, as well as opening up reductions on services for our staff.
The final award was a special award ‘Shining Stars’ presented to Stephen Bourne (The Mill House, Wells), Jill Watkinson (The Space), Sally Adams (Artist), Ross Haddow (Stody Estate), Radley and Kate Fenn (Coleman Opticians), Rob Whitwood (Inspired Youth) and Natalie Davies (Inspired Youth/Inspired Women). Everyone of this 'Shining Stars' has gone the extra mile to support Break to change young lives.
The auction, raffle and ‘heads and tails’ raised over £6k for Break.
A huge thank you to the sponsors of the the event - Smith & Pinching, Aspiration Europe and Shred Station; to Ruth Lowe, Ruth Elizabeth Events and to Janie and Dave Richardson of Big Phat Photos.
Two government amendments will be tabled in a bid to stem growing concerns over how controversial 'exemption' clauses will be used
The government will look to amend the Children and Social Work Bill in a bid to stem fears it will be used to privatise children’s services, Community Care can reveal.
The change will seek to “rule out” the possibility of councils using controversial ‘exemption’ powers included in the legislation to opt out from rules restricting profit-making in children’s services.
A second change will look to introduce a requirement for an expert panel to vet any application made by councils for exemptions from other legal duties so that the potential impact on children and families is assessed.
Both concessions are revealed in a letter sent by Isabelle Trowler, the chief social worker for children, in a bid to ease growing concerns over the exemption clauses ahead of the bill going to the House of Lords next week.
A group of Labour peers has tabled a rival amendment calling for the clauses to be scrapped.
The proposals allow the education secretary to grant councils exemptions for up to three years, with the possibility of a three year extension, in order to “test different ways of working”.
Supporters of the measures say they will help councils pilot innovations and cut “red tape”. But opponents, including a campaign group of more than 30 social care organisations, are calling for the measures to be withdrawn, arguing that they threaten children’s rights and protections.
Concerns have also been raised that by potentially removing statutory requirements, the exemptions could both make services more attractive to third-party providers and allow councils to opt out of rules governing the use of private providers.
In the letter, seen by Community Care, Trowler said the clauses were not intended to “incentivise the privatisation of services”.
“However to put this point beyond doubt we are tabling a government amendment that will explicitly rule out any local authorities being able to use the power to revisit any restrictions on profit making in children’s social care,” she added.
Trowler said the government had listened to concerns that the process for assessing local authority exemptions in the bill was inadequate and changes would be made to tighten scrutiny of applications. New requirements will include:
“If we don’t support this power we can no longer complain that the system is too bureaucratic and that we were hamstrung by legislation,” she said.
The government’s amendments, along with the Labour peers’ call for the withdrawal of the ‘exemption’ clauses, will be considered by the House of Lords next week.
Whether you see it as a battle to bust bureaucracy or defend children’s rights, the fate of ‘innovation’ proposals in the Children and Social Work Bill will shape how services work in the future. Andy McNicoll reports.
In little more than a thousand words, a passage in the Children and Social Work Bill hands the education secretary powers to exempt councils from duties under social care law for up to six years.
The controversial measures, set out in clauses 29-33, have been both praised as a bold attempt to free social workers from red tape and attacked as a reckless piece of lawmaking that amounts to a ‘bonfire of children’s rights’ and paves the way for privatisation.
Under the proposals, councils can apply to be granted exemptions with a view to achieving better outcomes or the same outcomes more efficiently. Poorly performing authorities under government intervention may be directed to opt out of certain functions.
Any changes would apply for up to three years, with a possible further three year extension.
The bill’s supporters say the aim is to test new local innovations that, if successful, could be rolled out nationally. But a coalition of more than 30 organisations is calling for the clauses to be scrapped, arguing they threaten a legal safety net for children and families that has been carefully built up over the past 80 years.
Isabelle Trowler, the chief social worker for children, has been heavily involved in the development of the bill. She believes the innovation clauses can help break the “endless cycle” of governments reacting to concerns over children’s services by creating more and more rules.
Each new piece of legislation may have been well intentioned but the cumulative effect, Trowler argues, is a bureaucratic system that leaves social workers little room to exercise their professional judgement.
“I think we’ve got to do something about that,” she says. “Switching from a legislative approach to placing more confidence in professional practice is really, really critical if we want to get a strong, confident workforce in place.”
Trowler says the DfE’s intention is to re-focus the system on practice, not procedure. Projects trialled through the department’s innovation fund have already helped, she says, as has the work of the partners in practice – a group of eight ‘high performing’ councils singled out by ministers.
“Those authorities are now saying ‘okay, let’s go further because we are limited in what we can do because of a range of not just legislative and regulatory rules, but also statutory guidance’,” says Trowler.
“We’re at that point where, if we’re serious about this, we have to challenge the core infrastructure. I don’t think it’s reasonable or sensible to just change the whole system. We’ve got to test innovations otherwise we’ll risk doing what’s happened before, which is imposing blanket rules without really understanding the consequences.”
‘Legislation can get in the way’
Leeds children’s services is one of the partners in practice authorities who back the plans. Steve Walker, the council’s director of children’s services, says there are situations where legislation can “get in the way” of creative practice.
He points to the approval processes for kinship carers as an example. Under the current framework, kinship carers are subject to the same processes as any other foster carer.
In some cases this has jarred with Leeds’ overarching ethos of working in partnership with families rather than “doing things to them”, says Walker, and a more tailored assessment might work better.
“At the moment we risk dragging families into a process which is quite complex and hasn’t necessarily been designed for them. We’d want to work with families and kinship carers and people like the Family Rights Group to ensure we put the right kind of assessment in place.”
Walker says that the checks and balances built into the legislation for assessing applications for exemptions is key to his support for the measures.
The bill requires councils to consult with any local safeguarding partners “and relevant agencies” it considers appropriate before applying for exemptions. The government must consult the Children’s Commissioner and Ofsted before making a decision on councils’ applications.
Walker says this external scrutiny is important to test the robustness of any proposals.
“We may come up with something here in Leeds that we see as a brilliant idea but then the expert panel may look at it and say ‘this just won’t work, you haven’t considered this, this and this’.’”
Other partners in practice have also shown interest in exemptions. Hampshire council wants to look at making more “effective use” of Independent Reviewing Officers by seeking exemptions from the current requirement for every child in care to have one. Lincolnshire has also backed the clauses, without specifying how it would use them.
Support for the plans can be found outside of local government too. Mark Costello, chief executive of fostering provider Foster Care Associates, says a “really obvious” area where exemptions could be applied is arrangements for children in settled long-term foster care.
At present legislation dictates these children currently receive the same assessment and reviews as children in short-term placements. But, says Costello, this may not always be wanted, or needed.
“If a child has been in a placement for 15 years and they view it as their home should they need the same level of social work involvement and the whole weight of the looked after children system? Perhaps for some children that just isn’t needed at all, so a pilot must be a good idea.”
He also feels there could be scope to trial fostering providers taking on some case holding responsibilities from councils, an approach he says has had success in Australia.
“I think it’s a good, sensible idea to pilot ideas at a local level, before you make more widespread changes. It offers the chance to test things safely and make sure any changes are evidence-based.”
Child in need cases
Chris Wright, chief executive of non-profit provider Catch 22, hopes the exemptions will help test new ways of working with child in need cases.
Under the current framework every child meeting the section 17 threshold must be allocated to a social worker, he says. In practice, Wright argues, most support goes to children at the more acute end of a social worker’s caseload and little activity takes place with children with lower needs.
Catch 22 currently runs a project in Crewe, backed by the DfE innovation fund, which uses a ‘hub’ model where the allocated social worker also manages a team of non-social work staff, including volunteers.
The wider team can help deliver day-to-day support to lower risk children. The approach means more time is spent with children and families, social worker time is freed up to focus on acute cases and future demand is reduced because of the early support being provided, says Wright.
He feels the exemption powers could help this approach go further by allowing a judgment to be made on which cases need an allocated social worker, rather than it being an automatic requirement.
He also hopes the exemptions could enable organisations like Catch 22 deliver more statutory children’s services. At the moment they run leaving care services but, says Wright, tenders will often be heavily specified to be compliant with the current statutory framework.
“I think that closes down the opportunity to co-design, co-produce and think imaginatively about how we might be able to work with children in the care system and those leaving the care system.”
Wright argues the capacity of organisations like his is currently underutilised but hopes that might change, pointing to a speech given by David Cameron during his time as prime minister that hinted at trialling new delivery models for children’s services.
“The state is proprietorial about risk. I think risk can be managed by many different types of organisations.
“I know you get into a real philosophical debate around the power to remove children from their families. I’m not being simplistic about this, I just think we can arrive at a considered set of arrangements that allow other organisations to play a role.
“The state has a really critical role. It is there to facilitate, enable, encourage, and sometimes do. But it’s also there to let others engage in that.”
Wright feels that without the kind of radical proposals tabled by the DfE “we could end up repeating the same types of conversations we’ve had for the past 10 or 15 years.”
“I trained as a social worker 30 years ago and it seems to me that since then we’ve made things more transactional at the expense of the one thing that we know can make most of a difference – that’s building a really positive relationship with the child and family.
“We should trust practitioners and professionals at the local level. We’ve got to give them the sense that the system allows and enables them to do the right things.”
As well as professionals looking to trial new approaches, Trowler says families of disabled children have voiced “a really powerful argument” around whether children with a disability should “be subject to the whole raft of looked after children regulations just because their care package tips over into a certain number of days”.
On the wider ideas for exemptions being floated, she adds: “It’s really important to say it’s not about the functions themselves. No-one is saying it is not important to visit children or review or to plan.
“It’s just about being able to use your professional judgment on an individual basis to decide what’s the best course of action without that being overly influenced by a very rules-based framework.”
Steve Broach is a lawyer specialising in social care, with a particular interest in disabled children’s rights. He is also fiercely critical of the innovation clauses in the Children and Social Work Bill.
For Broach, a major problem is that provisions that one person might dismiss as “red tape” are another person’s legal entitlements.
“This bill gives the secretary of state the power to effectively dispense of basically any requirement of children’s social care law, including primary legislation.
“I just think that’s astonishing – the idea that the secretary of state will be able to simply wish away duties that should be the building blocks of the legal safety net for children.”
He feels the case “simply hasn’t been made” to justify the scale and scope of the powers the government is proposing and questions the examples of potential exemptions given so far.
The IRO safeguard for example, says Broach, is a “fundamental” right for looked-after children. Meanwhile he’s seen “no clamour” from disabled children or their families to change the law around short-breaks. In any case, says Broach, statutory guidance already sets out a “proportionate approach” to the issue raised by Trowler.
The specific examples being put forward by councils are secondary to a wider principle, says Broach. The legal framework underpinning social care, he says, is supposed to be a minimum safety net that applies to all local authorities, not a set of measures that the government can simply revoke or change in different parts of the country.
“If there are real problems with detailed aspects of the statutory scheme we have, then those aspects of the scheme should be changed in the normal way by amending regulations. So, for example, amend the care planning regulations so that different visiting or IRO requirements apply in certain situations.
“It’s not good enough for proponents of this clause to simply give these very specific examples. What they’ve actually got to defend is an incredibly broad power for the secretary of state to vary or disapply any provision in children’s social care law.”
Ruth Allen is chief executive of the British Association of Social Workers, which represents more than 21,000 practitioners across the country. She’s supportive of the notion of promoting creative practice but, like Broach, feels the exemption approach is the wrong way of addressing any problems identified with the current framework.
“There is a feeling this is going to bring about a postcode lottery, at least for a period of time. Where does that leave families and children if they think a child has actually been denied something that they would have been entitled if an opt out hadn’t come into force?
“The other concern is it enables the parcelling up of parts of services in order to bring different providers in – providers that may not want to comply with the same types of restrictions that local authorities are used to complying with.”
Allen says that so far she’s not seen evidence that justifies the government’s plans – or heard widespread support for them. She claims one council that has been praised for the quality of its social work practice nationally actually told her they felt the ‘opt out’ measures were unnecessary, although she acknowledges some partners in practice councils are keen on them.
“One of my concerns is that people are not coming forward with a longer list of flexibilities they’d like to test because some of those ideas might be very unpopular and controversial. So they won’t want to talk about them until they have the opportunity to bring this forward more formally.
“Some of the things that have been quoted to us are quite concerning. They involve thresholds for support and provisions around asylum seeking children, particularly when they get a bit older. So it’s moving away from that notion of universalism.
“It seems unlikely that a safeguarding board or a local children’s service would want to disadvantage children in a willful way but there is a concern that stretched local authorities might want to cut their cloth in a different way or outsource more work.”
‘Opening a floodgate of real risk’
John Simmonds, director of policy at adoption and fostering charity CoramBAAF, can see the argument for reviewing certain areas of legislation too. He says the issues raised about how some duties currently apply to long-term fostering placements, for example, are of real concern.
“But this kind of problem needs a comprehensive solution that would apply to all children, not one where an exemption might apply in Westminster but not in Camden.
“Parts of the system may not be working well. We may need to test new ways of working to make sure we’re doing the best by children and families. But it seems to us that the clauses as they are currently set out open a floodgate of real risk.”
Simmonds says the government has failed to produce a robust assessment of its plans. He compares it to the burden of proof that might be needed if the NHS wanted to introduce a new procedure or drug.
“You would always have to apply the standard of ‘do no harm’. There would be ethical procedures to follow and rigorous reviews of risks.
“Is this the right thing to do and are we going to harm anybody in the process? There’s none of that being identified in relation to this. It just wouldn’t be acceptable in the health service.”
Broach, BASW and CoramBAAF have all lent their backing to the Together for Children group that is lobbying for the innovation clauses to be scrapped.
More than 30 organisations and 60 individuals – including teachers, parents, social workers, teachers, care leavers and a former children’s commissioner – have so far signed up in support.
The group was set up Carolyn Willowe, a social worker and the director of children’s rights group Article 39.
She has accused the government of having no mandate for the changes and of effectively minimising parliamentary scrutiny of exemptions by ensuring they are brought through secondary regulations – of which 0.001% have been rejected since 1965 – rather than primary legislation. The proposals, in her view, pose a “massive threat” to children’s rights.
Trowler rejects this suggestion. The people interested in trialling innovations, she says, work in “the best interests of children and families, it’s in their professional value base”. The plans are motivated by a desire to improve care for children, she says, not undermine their rights.
“Many of the people arguing that would be the first to say we don’t always do right for children, and that’s in spite of all the rules. So I think we just need to look really afresh at how we can actually deliver what we’re meant to be delivering to them.”
But there are no limitations on the clauses. Once such a far reaching power is in the statute book how do you guarantee people’s intentions for using it won’t change?
“I think that’s a fair point,” she says. “None of us want to create legislation which isn’t future proofed and can then be used negatively.
“My understanding is there are a number of discussions going on to try and alleviate some of those concerns. I’m totally on board with that because we’ve got to make sure that it’s not going to be detrimental.”
Trowler gives less weight to the “postcode lottery” criticisms. She argues there’s already a “huge difference” in the quality of services that children receive in different parts of the country. The exemption clauses would at least allow projects to be tested for a temporary period to assess their impact. “You either believe in building evidence to support changes or you don’t,” she adds.
But why did the government decide to legislate using the catch all ‘opt out’ approach, rather than – as Broach, Allen, Simmonds and others have suggested – drawing up a list of the specific types of changes wanted by councils, consulting on them, and then legislating for them in a more traditional way?
This, Trowler feels, would be overly restrictive and limit the ambition of the proposals. The approval processes for exemptions are there to ensure any concerns are “thrashed out”, she says, and the current debate with the sector and peers is to ensure that “whatever local authorities are proposing is properly scrutinised”.
“My sense is there are lots of people who want to back this but they all, me included, want to make sure it is a good piece of legislation. That is the process that we’re in now. That’s what happens when you make new law. I feel very comfortable that there’s a lot of support for it.”
This confidence will be tested next week when the bill goes before the House of Lords, many of whose members have been lobbied hard by both opponents and proponents of the clauses.
Young People at Heart recently approved another two foster carer households new to fostering, bringing the total number of foster care households to 12.
Founder and Chief Executive Gary Cox said he was delighted to welcome the new foster carers into the Young People at Heart family. Both were single carers who brought skills and experience to the organisation that would undoubtedly benefit young people placed with them.
Young People at Heart has another two families in assessment, both of whom had come to the UK from abroad and whose home languages are Spanish and Portugese respectively, adding to the diversity and skill set of the organsiation.
Gary added that Young People at Heart welcomed enquiries from new and existing foster carers from all backgrounds and encouraged anyone interested in fostering to make contact, either through the website application form, the enquiry line 07518 173083 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Foster care system in need of ‘urgent attention’, MPs say
MPs have launched an inquiry into fostering in England today at a time when the number of looked-after children is at its highest point since 1985.
The House of Commons Education Committee will look into the recruitment and retention of foster carers and concerns over reductions in the number of available foster care places.
It will also examine the support for and treatment of foster carers, the involvement of young people in their foster care, and the increased role of private companies in providing foster care.
‘Fostering is a huge commitment and foster carers play a crucial role in making a positive contribution to the health, well-being, and future prospects of the children in their care,’ said committee chair Neil Carmichael.
‘There are more children in care than at any point since 1985 and there are very real concerns of a shortfall in the number of families available to foster and about the support offered to foster carers.’
The foster care system was in need of ‘urgent attention’, he said.
The majority of looked-after children are placed with foster carers. 52,050 of the 69,540 of the children looked after at 31 March 2015 were in a foster placement.
Available capacity for placing children across the fostering sector decreased from 2013-14 to 2014-15, with fewer vacant places and more places unavailable due to the needs of the child or foster carer.
The number of filled places increased by 1% overall but fell for local authority carers. Research by The Fostering Network claims that more than 9000 additional fostering families are needed across the UK in 2016.
‘Many people in the sector have been calling for a review of fostering for a while now and the Government has responded by announcing a ‘stock-take’ of fostering in England,’ Mr Carmichael continued.
‘But we do not have any details as to what this will look at, how long it will be or what the outcomes would be.’
‘As a Committee we want to identify the main areas where Government needs to act to ensure the foster care system in England is fully equipped to provide young people with the loving, stable care they deserve,’ he added.
The deadline for written evidence is November 25. The public evidence sessions for this inquiry are likely to begin in January 2017.
Congratulations to Letesha-Kirton Adams, one of our independent Fostering Panel members, who has been announced as a finalist for a 2016 YBA (Young Black Achievers) Award.
Letesha is a care leaver and is now studying to be a social worker.
Gary Cox, Founder of Young People at Heart, said Letesha provides the Young People at Heart fostering panel with an invaluable insight into the life of a young person in care and her prepartation and contribution at Panel is always examplary. He added that the role of Panel in recommending foster carers for approval is a very important step in the process and that he was immensely grateful to Letesha for the time she continues to made available to help Young People at Heart make a difference to the lives of young people in care.
Gary also thanked the YBA Awards for recognising the contribution of all the finalists. He congratulated them all and wished them well in their chosen endeavours and for the awards evening on 26th November.
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