Sadly, too many children who come into care have a fragmented experience of education. Many face disruption to their schooling before and during their time in care, and may have missed considerable amounts of classroom time. As a result, as a group children in care do not perform as well as their peers when it comes to educational achievement.
A recent survey by The Fostering Network of London’s foster carers (March 2014) highlighted a need for greater information and support with children’s education. For example, 41% of respondents said they only partially understood Key Stages, 58% were unsure or unaware of the role of a Virtual School Head, and 40% felt teachers did not understand the foster carer role.
That’s why our latest innovative programme, London Fostering Achievement, is bringing together foster carers, teachers, social workers and young people to improve educational outcomes for children living with foster families in the capital.
Central to the programme is the concept of foster carers as ‘first educators’. It’s widely accepted that our family can have a significant influence on our education, and so for the vast majority of children in care this responsibility will be taken on by their foster carers.
Foster carers already play a vital role in raising aspirations and supporting children in care. This programme, delivered with a wealth of expertise, will develop the work foster carers already do and push it to the next level so children achieve the very best they can in education.
Social workers are crucial in improving educational outcomes for children living with foster families. That’s why we are inviting children’s and supervising social workers, as well as independent reviewing officers, to attend the training sessions and master classes.
Teachers are, of course, another key group. They stand on the frontline of education every day, and our belief is that by working more closely with foster carers and social workers, they can close the circle of educational care around the child.
A series of training sessions in every London borough will bring these groups together to help them better understand each other’s roles and expectations around education. We hope that by boosting the knowledge and confidence of foster carers and other professionals to engage with schools and children’s learning, children will see a strengthened link between home and education.
As well as the training sessions across London, we’ll be working directly with 27 schools to close the gap in attainment between fostered children and their peers, improve behaviour and attendance, and strengthen school relationships with foster carers. It isn’t enough to ensure that children merely attend school. Foster carers, teachers and social workers must work together with the school to appropriately manage and enhance what each child is achieving.
Children in care have enormous potential, and we must strive together to do all we can for them – this means not isolating our expertise and making sure children receive the support that they need and deserve.
The number of children in council care in England has risen by 12%, with overall costs calculated at £3.4bn.
The latest numbers show there were 68,110 children in care on 31 March 2013, including 42,228 who had suffered abuse or neglect.
This figure has risen by 12% or 7,210 in four years, according to the Audit Commission.
Councils in England spent £3.4bn in 2012/13 caring for these vulnerable young people, who represent 0.6% of all under 18-year-olds in England.
Councils' costs rose by 4% nationally, but regional variations ranged from a 15% rise in the north east to a 7% reduction in London. Spending on foster care totalled £1.5bn in 2012/13.
An Audit Commission study into council foster care costs and the impact the growing numbers of these children is having on council spending found that 21 councils spent under £40,000 per child in 2012/13, while 32 councils spent more than £60,000 per child.
The total amount spent on services for these children rose by 69% or £1.4bn in real terms between 2000/01 and 2012/13. It was noted that in 2012/13, it accounted for 64% of all the care provided.
Councils' use of foster care increased by a fifth between 2008/09 and 2012/13, with more than two-thirds of this extra care provided by foster care agencies from the private and voluntary sectors.
The cost of agency foster care fell by 15% during this period but can be more expensive than council-provided care.
The Audit Commission chairman, Jeremy Newman, said: "It is beyond question that councils must place children in settings that meet their individual needs and that provide cost effective, high quality care.
"With pressure to improve outcomes and reduce costs, all councils are faced with the challenge of getting the optimum value from the £137 on average spent per day, which equates to £50,000 a year, looking after each child in their care. To meet the complex needs of this group, spending can be more than five times the financial cost of bringing up a child where there is no requirement for council support.
"We encourage all councils to review their spending and in particular urge higher spending councils to understand the reasons for this and to consider whether they can secure more cost-effective placements without compromising on the quality of care."
Factors such as how easy it is to recruit local foster carers, the availability of suitable local placements when they are needed, the balance between the council's use of its own and agency foster care services and the nature of local foster care services may all affect how much councils spend, according to the commission's analysis.
Newman suggested that councils should use their collective purchasing power to get maximum value for the £1.5bn they spend on foster care.
Helen Berresford, of the 4Children charity which is working towards an integrated approach to children's services, pointed out there "is a high financial cost to councils (£3.4bn) of caring for these vulnerable young people – there is an even greater social and economic cost to not giving these young people the support they need".
The "bleak reality facing some of England's most vulnerable young people" is that children in care are more likely to have mental health problems than their peers, more likely to end up homeless and are also more likely to be excluded from school than other children.
She said: "We need a system of early and intensive support which sets sights high for struggling families and helps reduce the risk of children falling into care.
"Expanding the role of children's centres to become community hubs, integrating support services, could deliver the support needed to tackle the underlying causes of crisis for vulnerable families.
"This could be co-ordinated through children's centres, expanded to become community hubs, integrating support services to tackle the many underlying causes of crisis for the most vulnerable families."
He said: "Rather than competing with each other, potentially driving up prices, councils should consider whether collaborating with neighbouring councils can secure the services they need, at a price they can better afford."
Congratulations to author Simon Williams on the launch of his new children’s book today! We would like to thank Simon for deciding to donate the royalties of ‘Summer’s Dark Waters’ to TACT!
‘Summer’s Dark Waters’ is a fantasy / sci-fi / supernatural adventure for all ages 10+. Originally conceived as an idea thought up by Simon and his niece, the book is a departure from the author’s usual work and is his first book aimed at all ages but mainly 10-12. Have a sneak preview here.
If you want to read more, you can buy the Kindle version of this book and support TACT at the same time by clicking here.
The Fostering Network has launched an innovative new programme aiming to raise the aspirations and achievements of children living with foster families across England's capital.
London Fostering Achievement, run in partnership with Achievement for All 3As and funded by the Mayor of London through the London Schools Excellence Fund, aims to develop the confidence and skills of London's foster carers and support them to work with schools to help the children in their care achieve their potential in education. The programme will also work directly with schools to increase attainment, improve attendance and reduce exclusions amongst the children involved.
The programme will promote the important role of foster carers as 'first educators' of children in care and more than 2,000 foster carers and teaching staff across London will take part in the innovative and high quality training programme. Foster carers in five boroughs and staff from 27 schools and nine virtual schools will receive more intensive support.
Children in care traditionally do less well academically than their peers, with only 20.8 per cent in London achieving five GCSEs including English and Maths compared to a national average of 61.3 per cent of children in mainstream education.
Dr Lucy Peake, director of external affairs at the Fostering Network, said: "It is widely accepted that our family can have a significant influence on our education. For the vast majority of children in care it is their foster carers with whom they live, learn and grow. Foster carers already play a vital role in raising aspirations and supporting children and young people in care. This programme, delivered with a wealth of expertise, will develop the work foster carers already do and push it to the next level so the children in their care achieve the very best they can at school."
The Mayor of London Boris Johnson said: "We set up the London Schools Excellence Fund to raise standards in teaching and attainment amongst pupils across the capital, regardless of background. The Fostering Network's new programme is going to make a big difference to the lives of children in care, by ensuring they do not fall through the cracks and are nurtured and supported to succeed at school and compete at the very highest levels when they are older."
For more information on the programme visit the London Fostering Achievement website.
The Department for Education has allocated the first year of additional funding for Staying Put provision to local authorities in England, with further information on the subsequent two years of funding due to be released in February 2015.
The opportunity for young people to stay put with their foster carers until the age of 21 came into law in early 2014 following The Fostering Network’s successful Don’t Move Me campaign.
The funding allocation is for local authorities expenditure incurred, or to be incurred, to enable a young person aged 18 and their former foster carer to continue to live together in a ‘Staying Put’ arrangement, as set out in the Children and Families Act 2014 which came into force earlier this year.
Robert Tapsfield, chief executive of The Fostering Network, said: “The allocation of this money will give local authorities the opportunity to put into place the plans that they have already developed and to offer the certainty to young people that they need.
“The funding allocated to local authorities is based on local councils reaching the levels of uptake that were achieved when similar arrangements were initially piloted. Our hope though, is that more young people choose to stay on – although that would make this current allocation of funds inadequate.
“Children’s minister in England, Edward Timpson MP, has suggested that, should there be a higher uptake, he is prepared to ask for further funds in the next spending review. However, it is the responsibility of local authorities to show that the money is not enough, and our concern is that if they do not bring in the changes that are needed, then that case will not be made.
“Staying put is a tremendous opportunity for young people to be supported into adulthood and this money can ensure that provision can be met, and ultimately show young people in the future that staying put can be truly beneficial to them.”
You can find details of your local authority’s allocation of funds on the Government website.
FAMILY support charity Parents And Children Together (PACT) has been chosen as the official charity partner of the Dorchester-on-Thames Festival 2015.
The biennial event is one of Oxfordshire’s leading festivals and will be held at Dorchester Abbey from 1st – 10th May 2015. More than 3,000 people are expected to enjoy over 40 events including The Tallis Scholars, a Come and Sing with John Rutter, a Food Fair with cookery demonstrations and a wide variety of children’s entertainment.
PACT was chosen from a shortlist of six charities bidding to be the official event partner and share the Festival proceeds with Dorchester Abbey.
PACT has been building and strengthening families since 1911 through adoption, long-term fostering, award-winning therapeutic services and community projects across London and the south.
It hopes to use the funds raised from the festival to open a new family therapy room in Oxford which will help adopted and fostered children to address painful issues from their past.
PACT chief executive Jan Fishwick said: “We are honoured and excited to have been chosen as the official charity partner of the Dorchester-on-Thames Festival in 2015.
“We opened our first family therapy room in Reading in 2013 which has provided a safe and calm space for many families to work through difficult times and help the adoption or foster placement succeed.
“We would love to use the funds we receive as a result of this partnership to be able to open a new family therapy room in Oxfordshire.”
PACT’s therapeutic services FACTS won Voluntary Adoption Service of the Year in the BAAF National Adoption Week Awards in November 2013.
An Ofsted inspection in January rated PACT’s adoption service as outstanding across all four assessed areas.
A cheque for £2,000 has been presented to Michael Rooney of Break by Martyn Gibson, current Chairman of the Norwich Forum for the Construction Industry, and Jon Nelson, Council Member. The Norwich Forum for the Construction Industry was formed in 1991, its prime objective being to share knowledge across many of the building professions, i.e. construction, architectural, surveying, law, building control and supply chains, by holding seminars, lectures and meetings. One of the main events of the year is the Property Dinner which is normally held in February where, through the generosity of those attending the event, enables the Norwich Forum for the Construction Industry to contribute to chosen charities. - See more at: http://break-charity.org/news/news-stories/norwich-forum-for-the-construction-industry-donation/#sthash.ggcX4gm7.dpuf
TACT has continued its extraordinary success in tendering bids with local authorities by being placed on Tier 1 for all age ranges in the Worcestershire County Council and Herefordshire Council fostering framework agreement.
To qualify for Tier 1 means that the local authorities will have examined the quality of the services that TACT offers and our record in finding loving foster families for children in care.
We are extremely pleased that we continue to be so highly rated and valued by the local authority partners that use our services.
Recent tender successes include:
The Fostering Network and the joint forum of Independent Fostering Providers, with the support of the Association of Directors of Children's Services, have issued an updated transfer of foster carers protocol for England.
The aim of the protocol is to ensure that children's interests are protected when foster carers transfer between fostering services.
This revised protocol takes account of legislative changes which came into force on 1 July 2013 and recommends the good practice guidelines to be followed when an approved foster carer wishes to transfer from one fostering service to another. It recognises the principles of child care legislation and seeks to ensure that safeguarding the welfare of children is at the core of fostering policy and practice.
Vitally, it clearly states that children in placement should be guarded against unplanned moves and/or moves which are not in their best interests, and that foster carers have the right to freedom of movement between fostering services.
Robert Tapsfield, chief executive of the Fostering Network, said: “Our first priority, and the first priority of everyone in the sector, is that children aren’t unnecessarily disrupted from settled placements. Having fostering services who co-operate to make transfers as seamless as possible can help to ensure this.
“Foster carers, like every professional, have a right to choose who they work for and will make this decision based on a number of factors which may include, whether the agency will be seeking to make placements for the range of children and young people who they can care for, the support services on offer and the terms and conditions that each service provide.
“This protocol will ensure that should they choose to move, there will be a shared focus on the welfare and interests of the child.”
You can find the full transfer protocol on our website.
Today, along with Co-operatives across the UK, we are celebrating a truly landmark moment as the Co-operative and Community Benefit Societies Act (2014) comes into force.
The Act cleans up 50 years of legislation around Co-operative businesses, fulfilling a promise made two years ago by Prime Minister David Cameron to make it easier to run different and more ethical forms of business.
It follows years of Co-operatives UK campaigning, and while this is an opportunity to thank the government for delivering on manifesto promises, it is also an opportunity to talk about what should come next.
Join @CooperativesUK on Twitter today to thank @Number10gov for delivering on their promise.
You can read the policy briefing here:
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