Fostering News: Response to House of Commons education committee report on fostering in England from The Fostering Network
The House of Commons education committee has, today, released a report on fostering following an inquiry which began in October 2016 and to which The Fostering Network submitted written and oral evidence. The Fostering Network was instrumental in convincing the committee of the need for the inquiry and welcomes the report
In response to today’s report on fostering in England by the House of Commons education committee, Kevin Williams, chief executive of The Fostering Network, said:
‘We were delighted that the education committee carried out their inquiry into fostering in England, and welcome this comprehensive report. We hope that many of the recommendations are reflected in the forthcoming report of the Government’s fostering stocktake. We also agree with the committee’s conclusion that the Government should carry out a review of the full care system, rather than consider each element as if they were entirely separate.
‘In particular, we are pleased that the committee has included many of The Fostering Network’s recommendations, including the need for all foster carers to be given an allowance that fully covers costs, a push for more funding to make staying put work, access to whistleblowing legislation and a recognition of foster carers as child care experts who must be treated as equal members of the team. The emphasis on listening to children, the need for foster carers to be given more information about children and the drive for better matching, stronger support and improved placement stability are also signs that the committee has listened to the evidence from the sector.
‘The call for consultation around a national college for foster carers is also to be welcomed, although we feel there is some inconsistency around pushing for this professional body while stating that foster carers should not be classified as professionals.
‘We recognise the importance of raising awareness of the need for more foster families, which is why we have run Foster Care FortnightTM for many years. The key point is that this is done jointly with fostering services, as recruitment is an activity best carried out locally. What is crucial is that all fostering services understand exactly who they are looking for, and target recruitment accordingly, and that they ensure that the package of financial and practical support is sufficient to attract and retain these foster carers.
‘We would argue, therefore, that in order to recruit and retain enough foster families for all the children who need them, ensuring they are properly paid is key, and we are disappointed that the report makes no mention of this. Our recent survey found that only one in 10 foster carers receives an amount equivalent to the national living wage for a notional 40-hour week. This means that fostering is just not a viable option financially for many people who could, with the right financial support, become foster carers and provide loving, stable homes for children.’
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.
Are you in care or a care leaver? Do you like writing? Tell us about 'Who or What Makes You Proud' in our Voices 2018 national writing competition and win a tablet device and up to £100 in shopping vouchers.
Shortlisted entries will also be showcased on a special app featuring writing from children in care.
You can write about anyone or anything that makes you feel proud, such as how you've coped with moving to a new placement or changing school. Perhaps you’re proud of a family member or friend, or because you've started a job or found a new hobby, or made any other type of new start. Did your foster carer, residential worker, social worker, teachers, or friends help you?
Tell us all about it, in whatever written form that works best for you. It could be a poem, a rap, short story, newspaper article – anything, just so long as it’s your original work.
Your entry will be read by a panel of judges including well-known authors and journalists who have a special interest in the care system or experience themselves of being in care.
Winning entries will be published online so you can share them with your friends and loved ones – or, who knows, maybe even your future agent.
So, what are you waiting for? Get writing – we can’t wait to get reading.
Click here for more information.
Team Fostering are a non-profit fostering agency. Unlike some agencies, any surplus made goes back into the service we provide. This includes offering a range of opportunities and comprehensive support for our children and young people, as well as for foster carers and staff. We're an agency member of The Fairer Fostering Partnership, a group of independent agencies who share the belief that children should always come before profit.
While the primary benefits of choosing a non-profit fostering agency include the likes of more extensive support and varied opportunities, operating as a social enterprise has an impact other areas of the business, too:
Business Practice: Running an ethical business is about doing the right thing. That means acting in ways that are transparent, fair and honest. It’s also about being aware of the implications of our actions and the effect that they have on other people and the environment.
Employment: We strive hard to be a great employer, which includes offering flexible working, compassionate leave and a good working environment.
Equality: We’re here to provide a service for all children and young people who need it, not excluding or discriminating against anyone because of their gender, ethnic origin, religion, sexual orientation, disability or nationality.
Foster Carer Recruitment Assessment and Training: Only those people we are confident about are taken on as foster carers. That means we will only accept an application if we believe that someone has shown the potential for being an excellent foster carer and that what they can offer will be used by Local Authorities.
Support for Children, Young People and Foster Carers: When you get a placement with Team Fostering, you’re getting a wraparound service, tailored to each child’s individual needs and supported in a holistic way. The support we offer to foster carers and children goes well beyond what we are required to provide in our contracts with Local Authorities.
Inclusion and Involvement: Openness and dialogue are essential components of an ethical business. We listen to people because they know what’s going on and because they matter to us.
Matching and Placements: We will only ever place a child if it is assessed as being within their best interests. If for any reason we don’t believe that the proposed placement is best for their welfare, we will not allow it to go ahead. This ensures the welfare of not only the child, but those living in the home of the foster carer.
Suppliers: We believe it’s important to treat our suppliers ethically. This includes valuing the relationships we have with suppliers who provide a good service rather that choosing anything on the basis of price alone.
The Environment: We are trying to reduce our impact on the environment and become a carbon neutral company.
Promoting Foster Care: We take every opportunity to raise the profile of foster care, including participating in initiatives on a national level. We do not actively seek recruitment of foster carers who are currently with other agencies, but leave our door open should they choose to come to us. We build up positive partnerships with relevant organisations, charities and agencies to ensure that more and more people begin to consider fostering as a career.
If you're interested in joining us as a non-profit agency or would like further information on what it means to be an ethical fostering agency, send an enquiry here.
From 2018, St Christopher’s is running a new type of service designed for care leavers, by care leavers. Staying Close puts children and young people in charge of their transition to independence once they leave care.
We asked Mhairi, who now lives in her own flat, how she thinks Staying Close could have helped her when she was transitioning to independence and how she hopes it will make a difference to other young people in the future.
So tell us a bit about yourself…
Well, I am there – independence. I’ve lived in all sorts of places: with family, with foster carers, in children’s homes, in hospitals, in four semi-independent homes and now here. I’ve learnt a lot for myself and I have had a lot of challenges to deal with that sometimes have not worked out.
It’s been a long journey and sometimes it felt like it was never going to happen or that I wouldn’t be able to cope but I made it. I have my own flat, my own space and things are really good.
What’s the hardest thing about living independently?
When you leave care you really are on your own. So when you need to work out how to get the heating on you don’t really have someone you can ask because it’s just you. It can make you feel quite lonely.
It’s really quiet being on your own in the flat. You might not need key work sessions to help you anymore now that you live independently, but I didn’t realise how much I would miss just having people around.
And there is no second chance. If you mess up you lose your flat. That’s quite scary and it’s not like for other young people who can go home to their families if it all goes a bit wrong or it feels like it’s a bit too much.
So what is the Staying Close project?
So Staying Close is basically a project that the Department for Education have funded to help test out things that might help people like me and other care leavers transition from their children’s homes to living independently. The St Christopher’s project will be made up of:
Being involved in your support plan gives you responsibility and makes you feel that you are in control and able to make changes yourself. I am telling you – you will want to know you can do things like that when you are living on your own.
It is really good that St Christopher’s is trying to do this Staying Close thing because I think it would have helped me.
How prepared were you for living independently?
Not that prepared, really. The people in my children’s home all said I have to get ready for independence and would need to budget once I was in my own flat, and they told me all the things I should learn to do. But there was never any structure to make sure that I did it. Well, actually sometimes there was but I was not interested in learning because it didn’t feel real to me. Let’s face it – if you are still living at home it is hard to motivate yourself to learn how to be more independent. It would have been better if I had had a bit of help and support to learn along the way, but in real life situations not just in workshops before I had actually moved.
Do you think the Staying Close project will help young people learn?
Yes, because you are really trying out living independently, so you feel what it is like and it motivates you to learn. When I left I thought I knew everything and was ready – but it wasn’t until I was really living on my own that I realised what I needed to know. If I had been able to ‘pop home’ and have a little break from learning it would have been much better.
What advice would you have for young people getting ready to move from their children’s home?
Don’t be afraid to ask questions. You are not meat to know it all and people are there to help you – your friends, staff, other professionals. And don’t worry if you make mistakes – everyone does, it’s just they don’t often talk about it so it feels like they did everything right first time.
Find out more about Staying Close
On 29th November TACT Head office in South London was visited by childcare professional from Russia conducting a study tour. The group, coordinated by Kluch Foundation, consisted of specialists working in the orphanages and NGOs working in the sphere of child protection and family placement.
The goal of their study visit was to learn about child participation system in the UK and how children are involved in a monitoring and evaluation process.
TACT’s Children Resource Workers presented the benefits and strengths of including young people in decision making and participation in the running of the organisation providing many examples such as DVD made by young people about the journey in care and Big Weekend DVD filmed and edited by young people to promote TACT. In addition, policy interns presented what their department does to involve young people.
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