UK foster children gain access to 30 hours of care after U-turn announced by children and families minister Robert Goodwill
Foster children will be entitled to the same amount of free childcare as other children, a minister has announced.
The government’s flagship childcare policy, which increased the potential number of free hours a week for three- and four-year-olds up to 30 in total, was introduced in September but contained a specific exclusion “if the child is your foster child”, which campaigners branded discriminatory and inexplicable.
The U-turn was announced by the children and families minister Robert Goodwill during a Westminster Hall debate tabled by the Labour MP Lisa Nandy, who has been leading the campaign on the issue.
According to the minister, in the first term of the new policy 202,800 children were in a 30 hours place with more than 305,000 already signed up to access the offer in January.
Goodwill said in a statement: “We want to build on this great start, which is why I’m pleased to announce today that we will be extending our 30 hours offer to foster carers. We will set out more detail about how we will deliver this.”
In the debate, Goodwill called the issue “vital” and said that children in foster care “should have access to the same support and opportunities”.
He said: “Since it was brought to my attention, I have been looking carefully at the issue of the current exclusion from the 30 hours policy for children in foster care. I have instructed my officials to work up plans to allow children in foster care to take up the additional hours where it is right for the child to do so.
“We will work with local authorities, fostering service providers and others in the sector to ensure we implement this change in a way that promotes the best interest of the child and I will set out more detail on how we will deliver this shortly.”
Nandy tweeted that she was grateful that ministers had acted.
Campaigners, fostering providers and childcare organisations celebrated the successful campaign. In a statement, the Fostering Network charity said it was delighted by the decision and expressed thanks to the Department for Education for hearing their concerns.
The statement said: “It is vital that fostered children are not discriminated against and the reversal of this decision will ensure that for this particular issue they are being treated in the same way as their peers.”
Neil Leitch, the chief executive of the Pre-school Learning Alliance, welcomed the change. He said: “All too often, discussions around the 30 hours are fixated on the back-to-work agenda with little consideration given to the impact of policy decisions on the child, and so today’s decision marks a welcome change of focus.
“It is of course vital that, alongside much-needed general early years funding reforms, the sector is adequately supported to deliver the additional places that will be needed as a result of this change, and we await further information on how the government intends to ensure this – but we’re clear that this was the right decision to take.”
It is unclear when the change will come into force. The Fostering Network said it did not believe the change would come into affect until September 2018. An education department official could not confirm this, however, and said more details would be released shortly.
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