FtSE Member News: Community Foster Care and Community Family Care seek new Chief Executive as Hugh retires
The Chief Executive of Community Foster Care, Hugh Pelham, has announced his retirement.
Hugh joined the independent agency, based in Staunton, Gloucestershire, in 2014 and has overseen significant changes at a time when the national shortage of foster carers has shown no let-up.
He thanked his team, carers and board for their support and praised their dedication. “The work that Community Foster Care and our sister organisation Community Family Care does every day is a constant inspiration,” he said.
“We are a child-centred organisation which never loses sight of the children who are in care through no fault of their own, and everything our incredible foster carers do leaves me speechless with admiration.”
He will leave the organisation which provides foster carers for cared-for children in May 2017.
Chair of Trustees John McLaughlin thanked Hugh for his work. “Hugh has been a great Chief Executive and we wish him every happiness in his well-earned retirement.”
Before joining Community Foster Care, Hugh, 69, spent three years with the Children’s Family Trust where he was both Regional Manager for the Children’s Family Trust and a Trustee.
He was also Policy and Research Adviser for The Adolescent and Children’s Trust (TACT), the largest fostering and adoption charity in the UK.
He grew up in Essex and trained as a mental health nurse and a social worker. He has been working with children since the 1980s.
He spent almost 20 years with local authorities before moving to the Third Sector in 2001. From 2001 to 2005 he was Chief Executive of East London Foster Carers before its merger with TACT. He then became Executive Director of Children’s Services for TACT for six years until 2011.
CFC is a registered charity and not-for-profit company operating in Gloucestershire, Wiltshire, Lancashire and Cumbria. Established in 1999, it has nine staff based in Gloucestershire and Wiltshire, five in Lancashire and Cumbria, and three in Community Family Care.
Information about the post of Chief Executive can be found at
Responding to the Children’s Social Care Questionnaires 2016 from Ofsted, Jackie Sanders, director of communications and public affairs at The Fostering Network, said: ‘The Fostering Network has long believed that good foster care can transform lives. Good foster care includes many of the key messages that children have identified as part of Ofsted’s social care questionnaires – the importance of relationships, feeling safe and understanding why they came into care.
‘This report from Ofsted highlights the excellent work that foster carers are doing – for example, 99 per cent of fostered children and young people said that they feel safe in their foster home all or most of the time, and 94 per cent said that they feel part of their foster family all or most of the time.
‘However, there is more to do, especially when it comes to preparing children for a move into a foster home and enabling key relationships to be maintained even when children move on from a placement.
‘One in three children said that they didn’t receive useful information before the move, and that is far too many. This is a long-standing issue which must be addressed. Through our own research we have found that too often foster carers also do not receive information about the child or young person prior to the placement starting. Fostering services and social workers need to work together with foster carers, as part of placement planning, to ensure that both children and foster carers feel as well-prepared as possible before a move. This will help with transitions and give the placement the best possible chance of success.’
FtSE Member News: St Christophers' secures Customer Service Excellence award for fifth consecutive year
St Christopher’s work has once again been recognised with a Customer Service Excellence award for continuing to provide brilliant services to commissioners and young people.
People Development Manager Jane Daniells was the lead on this year’s review, which she started by collecting examples of excellent customer service from staff across England and the Isle of Man.
Our assessor, Tom Banks, visited our fostering office in Chelmsford, a children’s home and two 16+ services. He also visited the Putney office where he met with a number of staff from a mixture of our services.
In the final report Tom listed our Safe Steps children’s homes, the new Wraparound therapeutic service on the Isle of Man, the changes at Cornock-Taylor to meet the needs of a new client group (UASC) and the new management systems supporting Central Services staff as examples of good practice.
Receiving this award for the fifth year in a row shows that St Christopher’s continues to provide great quality services and care, and that we are continually improving.
Thank you to everyone who supplied examples to Jane and the Fast Track To Management Trainees. You can view the full report here.
Let’s keep up the good work!
Former GP Dr Derek Conaty has joined the board of independent agency Community Foster Care.
Dr Conaty was a GP in Brockworth for 28 years until his retirement in 2013. He also worked part-time in the Learning Disability Services of the 2getherNHS Trust. He has lived in Brockworth for 31 years.
“In my working life I saw the important role that fostering has in some children’s lives and the great work that foster carers do. I also saw first-hand the extremely challenging circumstances that can affect some families.
“I hope to bring some of my experiences as a GP and in the learning disability service to my new role.”
Chair of Trustees John McLaughlin welcomed Derek to the board. “His experience and empathy with the foster care sector will be invaluable,” he said.
The agency, based in Staunton, is a registered charity and not-for-profit company operating in Gloucestershire, Wiltshire, Lancashire and Cumbria. Established in 1999, it has nine staff based in Gloucestershire and Wiltshire, five in Lancashire and Cumbria, and three in its sister organisation Community Family Care.
The Scottish government must live up to its decade-long promise to introduce minimum fostering allowances, so carers like me can provide more for children
"Foster carers do an amazing job,” Nicola Sturgeon the told Scottish National party conference in October. I’m a foster carer in Scotland, and it’s nice to be praised for a job well done, but that’s not why I foster.
I foster because I want to give the children and young people I care for the same opportunities as their peers. I want them to have a positive experience of family life. I want them to have the love, security and stability that will help them to flourish.
But giving children all these things is becoming increasingly difficult for financial reasons. Like all foster carers, I receive a monthly allowance to cover the costs of looking after children. The allowance is supposed to cover things such as food, clothes, after–school clubs, transport, pocket money, household costs and so on – but it doesn’t.
In Scotland, unlike in the rest of the UK, there is no minimum rate for fostering allowances; the amount a foster carer receives is a postcode lottery. We’re not talking about foster carer pay, remember, we’re talking about the money foster carers receive to spend on and provide for children. The majority of local authorities in Scotland give an allowance which is less than the minimum recommended allowance in Wales. It feels deeply unfair.
It’s unfair to foster carers but it’s especially unfair to fostered children and young people. The fact that there is no minimum allowance either means that children are missing out, or that foster carers must subsidise what the government – as the corporate parents of looked after children – ought to be paying for. Because we want the best for the children we care for we, of course, dig into our pockets to make up for the shortfall when we can.
The young people I look after have often experienced significant trauma or abuse before they come to live with me. I want to give them every opportunity to experience the positive things in life, to do well at school, to learn an instrument, to take part in sport, and to go on school trips. But the fact that I can’t afford to offer them all these opportunities is a great cause of frustration. Other foster carers I speak to feel the same way. A minimum allowance, bringing Scotland into line with the rest of the UK, would mean that I can provide more for the children I care for – and that’s why I, and others like me, foster.
The Scottish government has been promising to introduce minimum fostering allowances for 10 years. The Fostering Network has recently written to Mark McDonald, the Scottish minister for childcare and early years, about the situation. There’s still no sign of the promise becoming a reality.
It’s nice to be told by the first minister that we’re doing a good job, but even nicer would be to see the government live up to its financial responsibility to looked-after children in the new financial year.
FtSE Member News: Community Foster Care are looking for a talented and entrepreneurial Chief Executive
Community Foster Care is a not-for-profit foster care agency which provides foster care placements for local children in Gloucestershire, Wiltshire, Swindon, West Cumbria and Lancashire. Our ambition is to be the best provider of fostering services in the UK, where children flourish and have the greatest opportunities to achieve their personal ambitions.
Community Family Care, our sister organisation, provides community based family support services to the local community in Gloucestershire, including training, support and guidance to families.
Enabling children and families to stay together is central to our mission, and our work is focused on supporting people to make the changes necessary to improve the lives of children.
We have ambitious targets to continue our pioneering work with children and families against a changing landscape. To spearhead initiatives that will drive our sustainable growth, we are now looking for a talented and entrepreneurial Chief Executive who will work across both organisations.
Someone who shares our vision and values and who will work with the Board and our committed team to make a difference to even more children's lives and to the communities where they live.
This pivotal role requires proven strategic leadership with an exceptional ability to engage and work with stakeholders including children, foster carers and service providers across health, education, the third sector and Local Authorities. You will believe passionately in supporting young people and all of those who care for them to create the conditions for children to thrive. We have our roots in social enterprise and this is central to our growth strategy. You will bring business acumen; be committed to ensuring financial sustainability and growth for both Community Foster Care and Community Family Care and you will have a deep understanding of the complex nature of commissioning and service provision.
To find out more about the role visit the website. For an informal and confidential discussion about the role, please contact our advising consultants at GatenbySanderson, Juliet Brown (0113 205 6089) or Joanna Riley (07807 624332).
Closing date for applications is Friday 9th December 2016.
Lib Dem peer wants assessment for every child going into foster or children’s home to tackle trauma from chaotic upbringing
The 10,000 children and young people a year who go into care should have their mental health assessed so they can be helped to recover from childhood trauma and abuse, ministers are being urged.
Claire Tyler, a Liberal Democrat peer, will on Tuesday lead a parliamentary effort to persuade the government to agree the change through an amendment to the children and social work bill.
Children’s campaigners believe that a mandatory assessment of the mental health of every infant or youngster going into a foster or children’s home would reduce poor school performance, suicide and offending by them.
“It is well documented that children in care – who have often come from upsetting and chaotic environments – are more likely to develop mental health problems than those who grow up in stable family homes.
“Parents would not allow these problems to spiral in their own children and, as the government is effectively these young people’s parents, so too they should not accept anything less than the best support available,” said Peter Wanless, chief executive of the NSPCC. Ministers have “a moral duty” to ensure such children get specialist treatment to help them overcome the damaging psychological effects of their upbringing, he said.
However, ministers believe that mandatory mental health assessments would stigmatise those receiving them. But the NSPCC counters that the move would help young people who are overwhelmed by anxiety, depression and low self-esteem.
Lady Tyler of Enfield is the president of the National Children’s Bureau charity and also the chair of Cafcass, which provides guardians for children who have been taken away from their family while the family courts system decides their future.
“It should go without saying that a baseline mental health assessment is essential in enabling professionals to identify issues and tackle them before they spiral into problems that can crush a life,” added Wanless.
The NSPCC is lobbying peers to “fight on the behalf of all those thousands of children who enter our care system every year and demand that government introduce this assessment and give some of the most vulnerable children in our society the best chance possible to grow up happy and healthy.”
The Royal College of Psychiatrists is also backing the proposed change. Children going into care already undergo an automatic assessment of their physical health. Looked-after children are less likely than their peers to do well at school and more likely to have run away, while those who have been in care are much more likely than average to take their own life.
Government figures show that there were 70,440 looked-after children in England at the end of March this year. A large majority of them are in foster care. An estimated 10,000 children a year arriving in care for the first time would be assessed if ministers agreed to the proposal.
The CEO’s letter
Just over two years ago we decided to launch the Andrew Turner Award. This was predominantly in recognition of our then Chairman who, over many years contributed so much to the continuation of the Trust. We have much to thank him for. As a result, we put aside a small pot of money each year and Carers and staff are encouraged to nominate our children for this award. I have always made it very clear that these achievements are all about the child or young person, as long as they are significant to them they are of importance to us. Therefore, it continues to be a real joy and a privilege to make these awards personally. Over the past two years I have had nominations ranging from a child being able to sit still for an entire school lesson to a young person achieving amazing A level results! The nominations are wonderful to read and in between the written lines the passion and commitment our Carers invest in the children they care for is almost palpable. Making these awards always gives me the opportunity to write to Carers personally to say a huge thank you for their work, it is always humbling to receive replies stating that the achievements are all down to the child or young person they care for and really nothing to do with them! Ordinary families doing extraordinary work, this is what CFT is all about!
Talking of extraordinary families, I am very proud to share with you all news of our very special award from the Fostering Network. Each year the Fostering Network ask the general public, the local authorities and fostering agencies for nominations regarding those outstanding individuals who make huge differences in children and young people’s lives. This can be a Social Worker, a Foster Carer, a former fostered child or a child who fosters. We decided to nominate several of our Carers across the Trust this year as well as a number of children who foster. After several weeks of waiting the Fostering Network informed us that not only had we been chosen to receive an award, we had been chosen from several hundred nominations to receive their most prestigious award, the President’s Award. This is a ‘one off’ award which from time to time they feel an individual or family is deserving of.
Clare and Mike Eynon and their daughter Becky will receive this award at the Fostering Network awards ceremony in London on September 27th. Alongside them will be the young mum they cared for several years ago. Tragically whilst caring for both mum and child Ajay passed away peacefully as a result of a life limiting illness. The entire family’s support, love, commitment and dogged determination in ensuring Ajay received the very best of times with his mum right to the end of his short life was nothing less than amazing to witness.
The Fostering Network spent a very enjoyable day in Mike and Clare’s home recently making a film about their experiences as Foster Carers for the Trust. This film will be shown on the 27th as part of the awards ceremony and will then be available to view on You Tube!
As I reported in an earlier edition we are also very busy ‘rebranding’. As such we have carried out surveys, sent out questionnaires and are working closely with a marketing company devising and designing our new logo and slogan to be launched in January.
FtSE Member News: TACT - Collaborative project to change perceptions about unaccompanied child refugees up for prestigious national award
An innovative research project designed to shift public perceptions about fostering unaccompanied child refugees has been shortlisted for a prestigious national award for public engagement.
Recognised by the National Co-ordinating Centre for Public Engagement (NCCPE) through its 2016 Engage Competition, the project – ‘Fostering Hope’ – is bringing together researchers from the University in partnership with TACT to tackle a recruitment challenge in finding new foster carers for refugee children.
With seed funding from the University’s Public Engagement Unit, the team involved worked with a group of fostered refugee children, sharing their experiences through a photo-voice project designed to challenge some of the many of the misconceptions that exist and act as barriers to fostering. These included issues about meeting the cultural needs of children as well as misperceptions about what being an asylum seeker means.
The participatory project involved running focus groups with foster carers organised through TACT, and workshops for the young people, giving them a voice to drive the research. By providing cameras, the researchers challenged young people to document their day-to-day lives and activities, depoliticising ideas that persist and showing fostered refugees first and foremost as children.
Photos and posters from the project were put on public display, including to over 2000 people at Refugee Week in Bristol and also at The Edge, at which responses, including from foster carers, were overwhelmingly positive.
Elaine Graham, Area Manager at TACT explains: “As a fostering service we are experiencing significant challenges in finding homes for young unaccompanied asylum seekers. This project was innovative in how it brought together research expertise from Bath to help us bring about change. Early results have been very good and this kind of work shows the importance of this kind of collaboration.”
Lead researcher behind the initiative, Dr Justin Rogers from the Department of Social & Policy Sciences, added: “One of the most significant aspects about this work was that it enabled our group of young refugees to be the ones to lead the initiative to change perceptions. Through the activities we organised and the photo-voice project that this involved, not only did they enjoy and benefit from the work but it had added impact among other audiences too.”
Inspiring and involving public audiences
Being shortlisted for the NCCPE award is a remarkable achievement – finalists have been selected from over 180 entries which demonstrate a broad range of high quality activities to inspire and involve public audiences.
Social enterprise Link Maker has launched a new national platform for the commissioning of care placements for all children.
Link Maker was formed in 2014 by adoptive parents, and the website was initially launched for adoption. It is now responsible for the majority of inter-agency adoptive placements across the UK, and is used by nearly every local authority and independent agency.
From 1 November 2016, the same platform will help to find fostering and residential placements. Providers can make live details of their vacancies available on the site for all authorities to find – or they can offer vacancies to a select group within a framework arrangement for example.
Link Maker’s chief executive, Andy Leary-May, said: 'We think we have proved the case in adoption for a national platform. The old, fragmented assortment of systems wasn’t efficient, and couldn’t find placements at greater distance. We know that for many children the widest range of options is essential.
'The landscape in fostering and residential care is very different, with organisational and financial factors playing a larger part in placement choice. We have accommodated current processes, but at the same time we hope to open the door to new ways of working, where meeting a child’s individual needs can be higher up the agenda.'
In October 2015, Link Maker extended its family-finding system to include long-term fostering, and many placements have been identified in that time. Foster carers can still register individually on Link Maker to view profiles of children seeking permanence, and to use the community features.
With their user accounts, foster carers can find others near them to chat, or to arrange playdates. They also have access to the ‘Q&A’, a knowledge base used by both families and practitioners to ask questions of each other and share advice. Support staff from The Fostering Network are ready to add their advice online.
Link Maker is providing the new commissioning platform free of charge to both local authorities and providers until 31 March 2017. For further information, and to register to use the system, visit www.linkmaker.co.uk
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