We are absolutely delighted to announce that following our inspection by OFSTED in July, Kasper Fostering has been awarded OUTSTANDING – the highest possible accreditation for a fostering organisation.
Praising the support given to foster carers and improving outcomes for looked after children and young people,OFSTED involved staff, foster carers and children in the inspection - also interviewing many external professionals associated with the Agency - and their feedback was excellent.
Registered Manager Lin Redman said, “I am over the moon. We have worked so hard as a team to implement recommendations from OFSTED following our last inspection – and to have our brilliant work recognised in this way is absolutely fantastic.”
“This puts us amongst a handful of fostering providers nationwide to be awarded outstanding – and proves that when we say we support our foster families and young people well, we really do!”
Ofsted is running behind schedule at this very busy time of year, and our report will be published in January for everyone to see.
Training for carers of looked-after children needs to be "vastly improved" to help vulnerable young people develop strong relationships, MPs have been told.
Speaking at an education select committee evidence session on mental health and well-being of looked-after children, Kevin Williams, chief executive of The Fostering Network, said existing training for foster carers was inadequate.
He called for the creation of a national framework for foster care training "for two years post-approval linked to a nationally recognised qualification".
“Once we have that type of training then we’ll be able to think about developing registration for foster carers, and part of that training needs to include an understanding of attachment, but also a clear understanding of our mental health issues,” Williams added.
Williams said the training would need to link into an understanding of education.
“It’s about developing and building their self-esteem and resilience,” he added.
David Graham, national director of The Care Leavers’ Association, agreed that training for residential care workers is currently inadequate and “needs to be vastly improved”.
He told MPs: “Within good residential care there is an ideal opportunity to work on building those relationships for young people, building that trust and communication. Too often it's workers with the lowest qualification who are put in those day to day situations.”
The committee also heard from Sarah Brennan, chief executive of children's mental health charity YoungMinds, and Lisa Harker, director of strategy, policy and evidence at the NSPCC.
Brennan said there is a “sort of perfect storm” in terms of looked-after people not being able to access mental health care.
“We have young people presenting to child and adolescent mental health services who are turned away because they don’t fit the criteria of having a diagnosed mental health problem,” she said.
“And yet these are the young people who have the most likelihood of having a long-term enduring severe mental health disorder.”
The meeting was the first to be held in the mental health inquiry. Neil Carmichael, chair of the select committee, told CYP Now the lack of a proper joined-up health and social care support system for young people will be a key focus.
FtSE Member News: Community Foster Care - Awards lunch is a first for our foster carers in Cumbria and Lancashire
Foster carers got a hearty thankyou when Community Foster Care hosted an awards lunch for its team in Lancashire and Cumbria.
The event was held at Hundith Hill Hotel in Cumbria which had fortunately escaped the floods.
It was the first time CFC has held its annual ceremony over lunch. In previous years CFC has hosted a buffet and mince pies at the office.
“We thought it would be nice to go out and share a proper meal together,” said Registered Manager Emma Weaver, who is based in the independent foster care agency’s office in Quarry Road, Lancaster.
Staff members Marion Cooke, Meg Arnold, Loren Hannah, Emma Weaver and students Linzi and Rachel joined eight carers, along with Chief Executive Hugh Pelham.
“The annual awards are an opportunity for CFC to say thankyou to carers who all receive a gift voucher,” said Emma. “It was really nice to meet way from the office in a relaxing atmosphere, pull crackers, tell the corny jokes and eat too much.”
Emma highlighted the high points of the last year, such as a good Ofsted report, Loren Hannah joining the team full-time after a successful student placement, and having two new students Linzi Bennett and Rachael Norman.
Emma thanked carers and said she felt extremely fortunate to be able to work with them.
“We have carers with more than 30 years’ experience as well as some who are in their first year of fostering. Not only do you all provide excellent placements for our children, but you are incredibly supportive of one another,” she said.
She thanked them for supporting CFC too. “You are always positive and enthusiastic about what we are trying to achieve and often come up with new ideas about how we can continue to develop for the benefit of the children.
“Our carers have an excellent reputation with the local authority and in many instances social workers ask for our carers specifically by name. You are all a pleasure to work with and certainly make everything feel like a team effort.”
FtSE Member News: TACT - Foster carers from Russia meet with their South London counterparts at TACT HQ
Foster carers from Russia have met with TACT foster carers and staff at TACT’s Hithergreen offices.
The meeting on Thursday of last week was organised by two Russian child protection organisations Klyuch Foundation and Partnership for Every Child.
It highlighted the common experiences shared by both sets of carers as well as showing the differences.
For example, every UK child placed in foster care must have their own room, but in Russia this is not the case.
It is also not uncommon for some carers to foster up to 14 children and young people at any one time.
Until a few years ago, most Russian looked after children were cared for in residential institutions. Now Russia is gradually moving more and more into foster care, hence the fact-finding visit to TACT in the UK.
Alyona Kandoba, of Partnership for Every Child, said: “We were so impressed with the amount of support UK foster carers receive – lots of training and 24-hour support and advice.
“Russian foster carers mostly seek support from each other and the community.”
Bev Crisp, TACT area manager, said: “It was great to see English and Russian carers enjoy sharing their experiences with each other.
“There was so much common ground when it comes challenges and the benefits of helping vulnerable children and young people, no matter which country they are in.”
David Cameron’s announcement today that under performing children’s services will be swiftly taken over by trusts fundamentally misunderstands the cause of the problem, warns Children England.
Kathy Evans, Chief Executive of Children England, says:
“After a Spending Review that failed to mention child protection and children in care at all, and dealt the councils responsible for their care the savage blow of further 56% budget cuts, threats to takeover ‘failing’ children’s services teams looks like deckchair re-arrangement on a fleet of torpedoed ships.
“Changing the management structure without addressing the systemic inadequacy of budgets to meet rapidly increasing levels of children’s needs is an irresponsible political move that will leave early intervention abandoned, and essential staff stressed and demoralised. Children’s charities right across the country are committed to collaborating with councils in whatever ways they can to help preserve and improve the safety net for children – but with over £150 million cuts to their government funding last year alone, we are also seeing, first hand, the severe impact on children and young people, and on the multi-agency working that is so important to keep them safe. Handover to Trusts is a very new initiative and the jury is still out on whether, and how, they might help. They are certainly no panacea, and with Doncaster’s takeover Trust recently rated ‘Inadequate’, the Prime Minister should show more caution in presuming that takeovers are a decisive or strong solution.”
“Moreover there is worrying analysis from the Local Government Association that Ofsted inspection, rather than providing a reliable picture of the quality of children’s services, is inadequate . Just last week their report quoted a Director of Children’s Services: ‘The cuts in funding have created a situation which inspection just isn’t intellectually flexible enough to comprehend.’ This is another indication that current government policies are radically failing to appreciate, let alone address, the real situation facing children’s services.”
Fostering News: Controversial changes to foster carer payments led to only one carer resigning, reports claims
CONTROVERSIAL changes to the way payments are made to Bradford's foster carers have led to only one carer resigning, but foster service bosses warn that there are still "difficult decisions" to make about the service.
Earlier this year, Bradford Council decided to end certain fees paid to carers, including the retainers given to foster carers waiting for a child, to cut costs in light of its decreasing budget. The changes meant foster carers would no longer be paid continuously, regardless of whether or not they are looking after a child.
At the time, the council claimed 14 per cent of foster placements were vacant, costing the authority £8,300 each week. The changes, approved in September, will see carers with a vacancy having their fees halved after six weeks and stop after 12 weeks. It was estimated the council would save £144,000 a year through the changes.
The proposals drew anger from foster carers, who said it could leave them unable to pay bills and could lead to some resigning as foster carers.
A report has now been released detailing efforts to "continue dialogue" with foster carers while the authority plans for further savings.
The report, written by Patsy Burrows, fostering service manager, says: "In the report proposing the changes to fees and allowances, the risk of disruption to children’s placements should foster carers leave the service was identified. To date, there has been no significant loss of foster carers in response to the changes."
In the past year, 16 foster carers were de-registered, but the report says: "Only one has been due to the carers being unhappy with the proposed changes to fees and allowances." Other de-registrations were down to issues such as carers being unable to "demonstrate the skills and knowledge required by the fostering regulations" or due to age.
Mrs Burrows recently spoke to the council's Children's Services Scrutiny Committee about the changes, saying: "There hasn't been a huge exodus of carers since the changes came in.
"We do need to find further budget savings in the coming year, and we will need to have more difficult conversations with our foster carers soon."
Councillor Malcolm Sykes (Cons), chairman of the committee, said: "We have to make sure we carry on the dialogue with these carers, otherwise we will have a similar situation in 12 months's time."
Mrs Burrows replied: "We are in constant dialogue with them. It is important they understand the financial situation the council is in and we have been in discussions with they to ask for ways they think we can find savings."
Councillor Ralph Barry, executive for Children's Social Care, said: "Nobody is denying there are difficult conversations that will need to be had."
Cllr Sykes added: "We have to make savings, so we have to make changes to this service. We have done this without any significant harm at the moment, but we need to continue with an ongoing dialogue with carers."
Paul Adams, fostering development consultant at CoramBAAF, outlines what social workers need to know about pets and placements
CoramBAAF’s advice line has always had relatively high numbers of inquiries relating to dogs and other pets, and I personally became increasingly aware of the significance of our own dogs as we expanded our family through adoption. These two factors contributed to my good practice guide Dogs and Pets in Fostering and Adoption, which contains advice for social workers working with families who own dogs or other pets.
The following tips about pet assessments are drawn from the material in that guide:
1. Understand the benefits to children of being brought up with a pet
Social workers are sometimes criticised for being risk averse and this can certainly apply to the consideration of dogs or other pets in fostering and adoption. However, there are many benefits for children being brought up in dog-owning families, including better physical and emotional well-being, provision of leisure opportunities, and the dog playing a role in helping children to understand the meaning of family membership. For children who are separated from birth family, dogs and some other pets can play an important role in meeting their emotional needs and helping to facilitate attachment to their new families.
2. Be self-aware
Attitudes to dogs vary enormously; some people love them and others hate them. This can be the result of culture, experience or personality, and social workers are no different in this regard. So social workers need to be conscious of their own attitudes as this will affect how they approach dog-owning families. Those who dislike dogs might fail to recognise the benefits they can bring; while dog lovers might be at risk of underplaying the dangers from dog bites and the like. These issues might be amplified if we consider pet rats and snakes.
3. Assess the owners’ ability to manage their dog but be flexible
It is obviously easier to manage children alongside a well-trained, well-socialised dog than alongside one that is badly behaved and ill-mannered. For example, dogs who jump up or snatch food or run around uncontrollably present more risk of accidents and injuries than one that is calm and follows their owner’s instructions. There is a lot of advice about dog training and preparing dogs to live with children and where prospective carers appear to be struggling it may be appropriate to point them to this material. However, social workers should remember that they are not assessing someone’s dog-training skills; a not very competent dog owner might still make an excellent substitute parent.
4. Take risk seriously but be sensible
Although injuries to children caused by dogs are relatively rare, children do get bitten by dogs and the consequences can be traumatic and, in the worst case scenarios, result in death. Children can also be knocked over by boisterous dogs and not all dogs are suitable for families wishing to foster or adopt. Other pets bring other risks. This means that an assessment must carefully consider this issue. Above all, however, the assessment must be sensible and proportionate. Just because an individual social worker might think it unhygienic having a dog sleep on your bed for example, many people do this, and without any health implications. Risk needs to be considered against the applicant’s strengths whilst recognising that nothing in life is risk free.
5. Use a specialist assessor if the situation demands it
Although in most cases a well-informed social worker should have the skills to undertake an assessment, there will be situations where they feel out of their depth. An assessing worker might be concerned about risk as a result of the dog’s breed, history, reported behaviour, observed behaviour or a combination of factors. In these cases a specialist assessment is recommended. Wherever possible fostering services should have established links with a dog-behaviour expert who understands fostering and adoption, and can provide a detailed and authoritative report. It may also be necessary to involve specialist assessment for other pets too, particularly where the potential for injury or harm is high.
6. Understand what the pet means to the family
A holistic pet assessment will not just look at practicalities and risk, but will try to get a sense of how the animal fits into the family. How the pet is perceived within the family will be important in understanding the family and will be crucial when it comes to matching. It is not uncommon for placements to break down because a troubled child insists on pestering or tormenting a dog, cat or other animal family member, even where this is neither excessive nor deliberate. A good holistic assessment can prevent, or at least minimise, this risk.
7. Actively develop your pet assessment skills if necessary
It is important that social workers ensure they are appropriately informed about the issues around dogs and pets in fostering and adoption. One in four families owns a dog and one in two owns a pet, so dogs and pets are commonplace. My guide, Dogs and Pets in Fostering and Adoption, provides a good grounding with information about canine characteristics and dog breeds as well as information about a number of other pet species. It also provides dog and pet assessment formats with accompanying guidance. Although there may be times when an expert assessment is required, this should not be necessary as a matter of routine if social workers are proactive in ensuring they have the relevant skills and knowledge.
Industry News: Local authorities do not need to consider all available placements for children, judge rules
A judicial review found that local authorities do not have a duty to consider independent fostering agencies when placing a child
Local authorities do not have to consider all available placements for children in their care, a judge has ruled.
In a judicial review brought by the National Association of Fostering Providers (NAFP) against three local authorities, Justice William Davis ruled against the organisation’s claim that the duty on local authorities to seek the “most appropriate placement” for a child meant they must consider all in-house and independent fostering providers.
The judge argued that the “most appropriate placement” was defined within section 22C(6) of the Children Act 1989 as being a placement with someone connected to a child, a local authority foster parent, a children’s home, or other arrangements that comply with the regulations.
“The duty does not involve any requirement to make a particular kind of search of any one of the placements identified in Section 22C(6),” the judge ruled.
The review was brought forward after the NAFP felt local authorities had to consider in-house and external fostering providers equally, or they would have failed in their duty to provide the most appropriate placement.
The NAFP, the Local Government Association (LGA) and three local authorities involved in the case rejected the judge’s interpretation of Section 22C of the Children Act, which they argued include a duty to consider the individual child’s needs. However, Justice Davis argued that the welfare and interests of the child were protected by other sections of the Act, and the Act’s definition of placement was “critical”.
What was the review about?
The review was about whether local authorities met their duties in Section 22C(5) of the Children Act 1989, and what the “most appropriate placement” as defined in the legislation meant for local authorities. The judge ruled that placement was defined in Section 22C(6) as “kinship foster parent; local authority foster parent; children’s home; some other arrangements”. He ruled that the phrasing of ‘appropriate’ implied an exercise of judgment by a local authority, and there was no duty in the act to look at specific type of providers for placements. The review was about where authorities should look after a decision was made they should be placed in care, and not about the proceedings before this point.
Justice Davis added: “The duty is not a procedural duty. It is what the LGA term an outcome duty. How a local authority goes about fulfilling that duty is a matter of policy within the discretion of the local authority subject to any express regulatory provisions…The word ‘appropriate’ of itself implies an exercise of judgment by a local authority. Moreover, the judgment is one subject to the ‘opinion’ of the local authority.”
He concluded that what the NAFP sought was local authorities to have to contact “all potentially appropriate placements” when making an accommodation decision, but what is “potentially appropriate” should be determined by the local authority.
Best for children
Harvey Gallagher, chief executive of the NAFP, said he took the judgment with a “heavy heart”, and called for education secretary Nicky Morgan to address the fact that the “Children Act is about getting what is best for children, but it seems it may not have been written in a way that reflects that”.
“The judge has taken a view in his verdict that the ‘most appropriate placement’ means no more than which type of care placement is chosen, rather than the specific placement which meets an individual child’s needs best. Neither NAFP, nor the LGA, nor the local authorities agreed with this view. This must call into question how the law has been drafted,” Gallagher added.
When the review was first announced in August 2015, the LGA claimed the NAFP was not fighting for the best interests of children, but was concerned about the financial interests of independent fostering providers.
The Government has announced plans to take over failing children’s services in England.
Under the new system, children’s services that have persistently failed Ofsted inspections in the past will be taken over immediately. Those found to be under-performing recently will have six months to turn around or be taken over.
Either other local authorities delivering good children’s services or teams of experts and major charities, including Barnardo’s, will step in to run those services.
The Westminster Government proposals also include £100 million to attract graduates into social work; working with charities to help deliver innovative children’s services; and a new What Works Centre, to make sure social workers learn from the best practice.
Barnardo’s chief executive Javed Khan says:
“We need to ensure we have the best possible services across the UK to support children and families, especially those who are most vulnerable. There must be options, where it is best for the child, to use the expertise of the voluntary sector to complement those already in place.
“We want to work with local authorities and others in local communities to ensure the best outcomes for children. We clearly welcome the opportunity to share our learning from developing and delivering services for children, particularly where we've worked in strategic partnerships with local authorities, to ensure effective solutions can be implemented.”
Children’s services that persistently fail young people will be taken out of councils’ hands and given to other high-performing local authorities, children’s charities or “teams of experts”, under plans unveiled by the government.
The proposals, which David Cameron will set out on Monday, will establish a new inspection regime and structures to deal with struggling services.
The education secretary, Nicky Morgan, has told local authorities that improving children’s services is not just about money, but about finding a different way of doing things.
Morgan urged local authorities to “make sure that they are scrutinising every line on the budget”, adding that you can’t improve services by doing “the same old same old, it’s about looking at different ways of delivering services.”
“It’s not just about money,” Morgan told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. “Local authorities have protected children’s services and we do put money in when a trust is being set up, but it’s also about – obviously the quality of the workforce – but also about the quality of the leadership.”
High-performing local authorities, charities and “experts” will be brought in to turn children’s services around – often by acting as sponsors, forming “trusts” to take over from authorities that are judged to be failing.
Cameron said it was part of the Tories’ drive to “confront state failure” and that details of who would be eligible to take over children’s services were still to be finalised.
Some charities have expressed concern that such a crucial area of care must not be hived off to organisations without the sufficient levels of expertise.
In a statement, Cameron said the changes would be as transformative as the government’s controversial education changes in the last parliament. He said: “It shows how serious we are about confronting state failure and tackling some the biggest social problems in our country. Together we will make sure that not a single child is left behind.
“It is our duty to put this right; to say to poorly performing local authorities: improve, or be taken over. We will not stand by while children are let down by inadequate social services.”
The broad principle of the changes was announced in September and follow a series of child abuse scandals across the country. But the details are being set out for the first time on Monday.
The measures include:
A spokesperson for the children’s charity Barnardo’s said it welcomed the announcement, but warned the government that it had to ensure that any group wanting to take over children’s services had the relevant expertise to ensure vulnerable children got the best service possible.
The charity’s chief executive, Javed Khan, said: “We need to ensure we have the best possible services across the UK to support children and families, especially those who are most vulnerable. There must be options, where it is best for the child, to use the expertise of the voluntary sector to complement those already in place.”
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