TACT – the UK’s largest fostering charity, is pleased to announce that its fostering service in South London and Southeast England has once again been rated as Good by Ofsted, reaffirming our reputation for delivering high quality support for children and young people in care.
Following the recent inspection, Ofsted stated in its report that “the fostering service provides a good quality of care, and the experiences and outcomes for children are very positive”.
Among the praiseworthy findings by the Ofsted inspection is the high level of support we provide our foster carers, with the report stating:
Foster carers overwhelmingly say that the support they receive from the fostering service is excellent. Staff maintain good communication with foster carers and very regularly visit them and the children at their homes. A foster carer said, ‘The supervising social workers are very experienced, knowledgeable, and supportive. Managers are all very accessible and supportive to carers. The carers are supportive of each other, and the communication between the agency and those working for them is very good.’
We are delighted, but unsurprised that Ofsted also commended TACT’s foster carers for the loving, nurturing and stable placements that children enjoy with them, illustrated by the following:
“A child said of their foster carers, ‘I like the fact that I can open up to them about any problems and not feel at all worried or scared to do so as they are extremely supportive.’
“A local authority social worker said, ‘The carers have gone above and beyond to provide good care to the children. We are currently assessing one of my children to be long-term matched with carers as she wishes to remain in their care and is settled and happy.’
Christina Brandi, TACT’s Executive Director for Children Services said: ‘We are pleased that Ofsted has given this independent verification of the quality of our service. It is a testament to the hard work and commitment of our foster carers and the staff that support them.”
Christina added: “We always need more foster carers in South London and Southeast England, particularly for teenagers and sibling groups. Hopefully, our Good Ofsted rating will mean TACT continues to be the go-to agency for anyone thinking about becoming foster carers.”
Other aspects of the TACT service in South London and the Southeast Ofsted singled out for praise include good promotion of the physical, emotional, and social well-being of the children and young people, good attention to equality and diversity, and ‘exceptional’ training provided to staff and foster carers.
The Department for Education has awarded St Christopher’s funding to continue Staying Close, a project to help young people maintain relationships with people they care about after they leave residential care.
Staying Close is a pilot under the DfE’s Innovation Programme, which encourages new models of practice within children’s social care. Launching in 2017, the project has continued to evolve thanks to co-production with children and young people.
Aims for 2022-23
The funding received so far will cover this next year; we are currently awaiting the outcome of an additional application that will extend the funding period.
Chief Executive Jonathan Whalley said: “We are thrilled to continue our important Staying Close work, helping care leavers build life skills, reduce isolation and sustain relationships.”
Member News: Tact - How do we, as Looked After Children and Care Experienced Adults, experience stigma?
Stigma: a set of negative and often unfair beliefs that a society or a group of people have about something.
As care experienced people in one way or another we have all experienced forms of stigma and prejudice based on our lived experience. This can be through the attitudes that some people in our society have surrounding what it means to be a looked after child and the circumstances of what can lead a child to go into the care of children’s services.
Often the negative portrayal of care experienced children and adults in popular culture, as well as the “real life” representation within the media, can feed into negative connotations and reinforce the stigma and prejudice against us. The lack of awareness, perception and education can limit a person’s understanding of our experiences and can often lead people to assume that theses false representation are the truth. Narratives like Tracy Beaker can lead to misconceptions of what our life in care is actually like.
The English Independent Care Review is picking up on issues such as stigma, and there is a hope that policies can be implemented in order to make a positive transformation of the social care system, for those currently being cared for external to their birth parents, as well as those who may experience social care in the future. The review is looking at the issues faced through the perspective of children and families and the way we feel about the services around us, either positively or negatively.
In October 2021 the English Care Review held a panel discussion with a number of experts, of which several were care experienced. The purpose of this was to create a discussion as to whether the revelation of care experiences has consequences and if “the stigma of care prevents care experienced people from having a fair chance to flourish?”. It was shown by each of the panel members that stigma is very present in in their lives, with a number of stereotypes being derived from this, including the view that “challenging” behavior of children and young people in care increases their potential for criminality.
In comparison to this often when we succeed, we feel a sense of imposter syndrome and doubt our accomplishments, simply because it is not something that we see within the media, as this is not a thing that is focused on. This is an issue that relates to a discussion started by David Akinsanya, a panel member. David talked about the documentaries he has made, one in particular about his experiences of being in care where he had people ask him “how did you do that” and “how can we do that”, as these are ideas that many care experienced people don’t think are possible.
A great deal of the discussion around stigma, but also the idea of being made to feel different came from the way in which professionals, like social workers interact with us and the way in which they go about their work. Another well respected professional and panel member, Professor Julie Selwyn, highlighted how around 10% of young people aged 11-17 stated that the professional adults in their lives, such as social works, embarrassed them and made them feel a sense of shame. These discussions felt extremely similar to experiences that I and many others have had in terms of the way professionals within children’s social care present.
When you are in care often you feel different to those around you, as you regularly get pulled out of lessons for a variety of meetings, counselling sessions or even the most normal interaction of meeting with a social worker who attends your school wearing their lanyard. Sometimes as care experienced people we try to keep that part of ourselves hidden in order to protect ourselves from the fear that others might say hurtful things about our experiences.
The Care Review is a key necessity in order to start thinking about making changes to children’s social care across England, yet other studies and reports are being develop which are extremely beneficial to the experiences of children and young people during their time in care. Language That Cares is a clear example of how children and young people feel about the language that is used within children’s social care and how we want it to change to reflect our feelings and preferred language around this. Language is something that can be difficult to change, especially in a setting like social services, as often this is what professionals have been taught is right. It is also known that psychologically we all use words that separate and protect us from certain situations, this factor alone makes this a difficult area to change fully.
It feels hopeful that real discussions are taking place around stigma, as it helps us to see and understand that our voices and opinions as care experienced adults and young people are being heard. It is further hoped that these events may have an impact and that there is potential to make positive changes for those who are currently looked after by Local Authorities.
TACT Connect Advisor
Choosing a fostering agency can be confusing. With so many agencies out there, what makes each agency different?
In this blog we talk to Sal, Fostering Service Manager in the Southwest of England, about how fostering agencies work. Learn about the different agencies and what to expect from fostering with Action for Children.
How are fostering agencies different to one another?
There are three main types of fostering agencies. Local authority, private and not-for-profit. Both private and not-for-profit agencies are known as Independent Fostering Agencies (IFAs).
Sal says, “There’s a lot of diversity within agencies. All the children we find families for come into care via the Local Authority. They’ll try to find and match children with suitable fostering families. But because there are so many children to find homes for, the local authority refers children to Independent Fostering Agencies, like ourselves.”
"Action for Children is a charity and choose to support fostering"
Of the 12 million children living in England, over 80,000 of these children are in care.*
“Action for Children is a charity and choose to support fostering not because we have to or because we profit from it. We do it because we want to provide really stable families to some of the most vulnerable children in the country.”
Why are children placed into foster care?
Children may have a different experience and journey when they go through care.
For some children, the parent made the decision for them to be looked after. That could be for a short period of time or a longer period, depending on the circumstances. While the young person is settled, vital work can happen with the family.
“Most children have been removed from their birth family because they’ve experienced abuse and neglect. Often these children are extremely traumatised.
"Most children have been removed from their birth family because they’ve experienced abuse and neglect"
"Children may remain with their foster carers for the rest of their childhood, and sometimes beyond this age through a ‘staying put agreement.’ This means they can stay with the foster family up to the age of 25.
“We provide long-term, stable homes for children who the local authority can't support internally through their foster carers. This could be because there is a capacity issue or because the children are harder to place. For example, they might be older children or sibling groups, and some may have complex needs.”
What support do foster carers get?
Foster carers receive exceptionally high levels of support from Action for Children.
Sal says, “We provide high levels of support and training for foster carers which is tailored to them and the child they’re supporting. Our social workers get lots of training too, and caseloads are kept small enabling social workers more time with their foster carers.
“Our goal is to give as much support as we can to families, so they feel supported by us. Giving children every chance to experience long-term stability. We’re there for the long haul.”
All Action for Children foster carers receive:
Why foster with Action for Children?
Many of our foster carers choose Action for Children because we’re a charity and always put children first.
Sal says, “We put children at the center of every decision. Any money we make goes back into supporting the next child that needs it. Foster Carers often say we’re like a family."
"From the beginning, fostering with Action for Children felt like a family and that we were part of something special"
Sal said, “We are often small services with social workers that stay for a long time. We’re all in it together, everyone has a voice, and we’re all in it to make a difference to children.”
How do I decide on a fostering agency?
Sal highlights the questions to ask when choosing the right agency for you.
“If you’re interested in fostering, explore a range of agencies and their background. Know what support you’ll receive, the support needs of the children in care and ask about the teams. Talk to them about the types of children you’re looking to support.”
Get in touch to learn more about fostering with a leading UK children's charity
The UK’s biggest children’s charity has announced Lynn Perry MBE as its new permanent CEO.
Following a robust recruitment process, the Board of Trustees appointed Lynn to the role and is confident that she is an exceptional and inspirational leader with the values, commitment, skills and experience to drive the charity forward.
Lynn has worked at the charity for 13 years, most recently as Interim Co-CEO, alongside Michelle Lee-Izu.
She joined in 2008 as an Assistant Director of Children’s Services before being promoted to Regional Director North West in 2013. Since 2019 Lynn has served as the Corporate Director for Children’s Services with responsibility for around 800 services, reaching over 300,000 vulnerable children, young people and families across the UK.
Prior to joining Barnardo’s, Lynn worked at The Children’s Society in children’s services operational and leadership roles, and in local authority roles including youth offending, education and youth services.
In 2007 she received an MBE for services to youth justice in the North West of England, in recognition of her work.
John Bartlett, Chair of Trustees at Barnardo’s said: “The Board is delighted to appoint Lynn to the role of permanent CEO of Barnardo’s, and we have full confidence in her exceptional, inspirational and values-led leadership.
“During Lynn’s service at the charity she has demonstrated her phenomenal grasp of the issues affecting vulnerable children and families, as well as her capacity for innovation and creativity.
“Lynn is deeply committed to driving forward the charity’s strategic direction, with a strong emphasis on culture and inclusion, and we believe the charity will continue to go from strength to strength in her immensely capable hands.”
Lynn Perry MBE, CEO at Barnardo’s said: “As someone who has devoted my professional life to working with vulnerable children, it is an honour and a privilege to be appointed CEO of Barnardo’s.
“Having served the charity for more than 13 years, in several different roles, I am incredibly proud of the difference we make to the children and families who need us most, and I have deep respect and admiration for the thousands of colleagues and volunteers who make our work possible.
“Barnardo’s has achieved some amazing things over more than 150 years. Today, we know that children’s needs are growing and changing fast, exacerbated by the pandemic, and we must continue to innovate and adapt, so we can continue to respond to challenges like children’s mental health, new risks to their safety on- and offline, the growing number of children going into local authority care, and the specific needs of vulnerable and diverse groups, including refugees.
“The work of Barnardo’s remains crucial to improving children’s lives and making sure their voice and experience is heard by decision makers. I look forward to working with my fantastic colleagues, our partners, donors, and supporters, to achieve this vital mission.”
Member News: Action for Children - Helping children who are fostered develop a strong sense of identity: Shopna's story
Foster carer Shopna is supporting a young Muslim child from Afghanistan. She talks about her role in helping young people to feel confident in themselves, their identity and their religion
Choosing to foster with Action for Children
Shopna always wanted to foster, having been inspired by both her faith and work with children and parents.
“As a practicing Muslim, the Quran has played a big part in inspiring me to foster. Our Prophet Muhammad adopted an orphan child,” explained Shopna.
“In Islam, we're told to look after our community and look after children, and we do this by fostering.”
Shopna reached out to Action for Children fostering services in London when the time was right.
"When my children had grown up, I felt I'd given them the best of everything. There are so many children out there who need that support and upbringing, I decided I wanted to support those children directly by fostering.
"When we looked at agencies, Action for Children came up first. I started to research the charity and found they'd been around for a long time. They also had a good reputation, and so we chose them.
“I’ve seen how parental support can grow a child’s confidence and once a child is confident, they can do anything.”
Reflecting back, Shopna said, "I never felt pressured to say yes to a child waiting for a foster family. The team supported us throughout and even helped us to settle in the young person."
Respecting children’s identities
“For me, a child’s identity is so important, and they need to hold onto that. If a child has a strong identity, they know who they are and will be confident adults later in life. Children in care can really struggle with their identity, it's important that we support them to feel confident with who they are.
"You can’t change who you are. As a foster carer, I’m able to support young people to hold onto their religion and cultural identity. We would always encourage children to practice their religion and be confident in what they believe in.”
Shopna describes her family as 'home people'.
“So, for my family, there weren't any barriers preventing us from fostering. My husband and family have been very supportive through the whole process. My extended family are also supportive of what we are doing."
"We like to stick to routines and spend a lot of time together as a family. I think that's one of the reasons my children have grown up secure and happy.
“Culturally, Muslims are very busy with gatherings and family. It is normal to attend a lot of functions and visit family often. When you have a child come into your family home, you need to spend a lot of time with them to help that young person settle in.
“After some time, they may be happy to attend gatherings with you and your family. However, if they aren't, then that’s okay too. You as a family need to decide if there are events you don’t go to or who can stay back with the young person or even take it in turns to attend the event.”
Fostering a child who is non-Muslim
Shopna worried that fostering a child who is non-Muslim would be challenging.
"We pray five times a day, and in the evenings together as a family. I would never tell a child who is not Muslim to pray, but I worried about them feeling left out. Younger children are more likely to model your behaviour and may want to join in or wear a head scarf.
"I wouldn’t want that child to think later in life that we’ve instilled our beliefs on them. Or [for their] birth parents to feel we’ve done this on purpose. There are times when I need advice on how to deal with these situations."
Action for Children provide support through Fostering Social Workers, who are always at hand for support and advice, 24/7. We also provide diversity training for all our foster carers. This helps in times when they are matched with children who may not be the same ethnicity or religion as them.
“Eid is an important time of the year for our family. And what’s really lovely is our social worker will message us to wish us a, ‘Eid Mubarak’ on the day. Knowing she recognises it’s an important day for us makes us feel special, they’re truly fantastic.”
If you're have a question about fostering and have a faith, talk to us.
Member News: Together Trust's care-experienced delegation hands in Together Trust petition to 10 Downing Street
On February 1st, two representatives from the Together Trust met up with a delegation of care-experienced people, as well as campaigners from the #KeepCaringto18 group to deliver our petition to 10 Downing Street.
Signed by 10,785 people across the UK, the petition called for the government to provide 16- and 17-year-olds in care with a safe, loving home.
In the early afternoon, cheered on by supportive onlookers, including MPs Emma Lewell-Buck and Lilian Greenwood, the delegation delivered the petition. Footage of the hand in was captured here.
Earlier this week, publicity from a Guardian article (page 2), in which the Together Trust’s research was quoted, helped the campaign exceed the 10,500 threshold that the campaign had been aiming for.
One member of the delegation, Terry Galloway, told his story to an ITV reporter. He said, “children need care to 18. I have got personal experience of this, I was in and out of children’s home, and by the time I was sixteen I had been in over a hundred homes. These kids are vulnerable, they are looking for love.”
After hand in, the delegation unexpectedly encountered MPs Bill Estherton and Jeremy Corbyn, as well as the Children’s Commissioner for England, Rachel de Souza. The delegation took the opportunity to share with them their concerns and aspirations for children in care.
Next week, Article39 will be appearing in court to challenge the law which makes it possible for local authorities to place 16- and 17-year-olds in accommodation without care. Representatives from the Together Trust will be attending the hearing.
Lucy Croxton, Policy, Public Affairs and Campaigns Manager, said “According to the Children’s Commissioner, more than a third of children who entered care in 2019 were teenagers, often with complex needs. The law as it stands means that some of those children are not entitled to care. We, like 10,700 others believe that they should be, and will continue to advocate for their rights through our KeepCaringto18 campaign.”
Thank you to everyone who has supported our campaign - we couldn't do this without your support.
Lucas and Adam’s journey with the Rolls Royce of fostering agencies
Adam and Lucas’s fostering journey started three years ago when they were introduced to New Routes fostering agency.
Adam said, “For us it was really important to play a part in providing a safe and happy environment for children whose welfare wasn’t being met. We were introduced to New Routes by my auntie who has been fostering with them for over 20 years.”
Lucas said: “We were fortunate that we had some awareness of what fostering involved which helped with the initial contact with the agency. Although we were a little apprehensive of the unknown, we need not have been as staff were approachable and friendly resulting in a smooth transition from making the initial call to being approved as foster carers.
“We currently have three children in our care, two of whom are siblings who have recently been matched with us long term. We also had three short term respite placements prior to the three children currently placed.”
New Routes are keen to dispel myths around fostering, particularly who can foster. A spokesperson from the agency said, “You do not have to be married or have had children. You can apply to become foster carers whatever your marital status, sexual orientation, religious background, and so on. The children and young people we find homes for come from a wide range of backgrounds, so we are looking for foster carers who reflect that diversity. What is essential is that you enjoy the company of children and young people and have a genuine desire to make a difference in their upbringing.
“You do need to have a room for each child, undergo various checks and be willing to attend training. We offer training and support at every stage. We also hold social events so you can meet other foster carers.”
Lucas said, “New Routes are genuinely the Rolls Royce of fostering agencies. They provide excellent support training and guidance as well as being there for a friendly chat. To be a foster carer you need to make sure you have sufficient time, love, and a spare room, as well as having a genuine passion to want to make a difference.”
Adam said, “The rewards of supporting looked-after-children are immense and provides them with the foundation to building a good life. We couldn’t recommend fostering enough, it’s the best thing we ever did. The only regret we have is not doing it earlier.”
Based near Birmingham, New Routes welcome enquiries from people living in the East and West Midlands. It is operated by social care charity Father Hudson’s Care, which provides services and local projects that support people facing various challenges and adversity.
If you would like to find out more about how you can help children and young people on their journey, you can contact New Routes on 01675 434025, email firstname.lastname@example.org or go to www.foster-carers.org.uk.
Names have been changed to protect the identities of looked-after children.
St Christopher’s is introducing a Get Into Work programme in the England to support our care leavers with learning employability skills and building their confidence around work.
Young people supported by St Christopher’s expressed concerns about having the skills to secure and sustain work once they leave care, particularly as they have had limited work experience opportunities during the pandemic. We want to offer young people insight into the world of work before they began to live independently as part of our strategic commitment to promote lifelong learning and thriving.
Expertise for the new Get Into Work programme has come from our successful Support Into Employment service on the Isle of Man, which helps care leavers learn new skills and find a job that is right for them.
Thanks to funding from the Churchill Fellowship, we will recruit a Get Into Work co-ordinator to deliver an apprenticeship programme and identify work experience opportunities within St Christopher’s in the first instance. The co-ordinator will also develop an accredited qualification that enables young people to mark their progress and achievements.
The programme will develop young people’s self-confidence and skills, provide mentoring, and help them overcome the challenges of finding a job. Our hope is that giving young people a solid introduction to work will help them grow their aspirations, find sustainable employment and achieve their goals.
Geneva Ellis, Director of Income and Development said: “Establishing our Get Into Work programme will help us support young people with one of the key challenges they face when they leave care and meet their needs in a way that works for them. I am really excited to develop this programme and hope that we will give young people a positive introduction to the world of work so that they can go on to enjoy fulfilling careers and lives.”
Norfolk-based discount retailer QD Group, which has stores across the county, has donated £23,205.00 to Break, the East Anglian children’s care charity, who provide young people on the edge of care, in care and leaving care with a healthy childhood and the life-long support they need to enjoy a bright and successful future.
These funds have been raised since QD announced Break as its chosen charity partner last year. QD has donated all the proceeds from the 10p plastic carrier bag charge across its stores and garden centres and also customer donations in collection tubs on the tills.
Karl Ottolangui, operations director for the QD Group, said:
“We are delighted to make this first donation to Break, which is a great way to kick off our new charity partnership. Thank you to our customers who have helped us to raise this brilliant first amount of £23,205. We are all looking forward to really getting behind the charity this year to raise some more much-needed funds for a fantastic local cause.”
In addition to the carrier bag charge proceeds and customer donations, staff across the stores, head office and distribution centre are hoping to raise funds through events and outdoor challenges as the year progresses and COVID-19 restrictions ease. QD has also been confirmed as a sponsor for Break’s GoGoDiscover Trail, sponsoring a mighty two metre tall T.rex sculpture, which will be part of this summer’s family-friendly fundraising trail in Norwich for Break.
Peter Marron, corporate fundraising and project manager at Break, said: “We cannot thank QD enough for this amazing and generous donation. We are really looking forward to working alongside their staff and customers throughout the year with an array of additional fundraising activities as part of our charity of the year partnership.
“It’s a really exciting year for Break, with the T.rex sculptures back onto the city streets with more friends joining them across the county to form a mammoth GoGoDiscover trail. We are really looking forward to seeing the design of QD’s sponsored sculpture come to life in the next few weeks.
“Break’s work supports some of the most vulnerable in our community and every penny raised means that we are able to offer opportunities that support and enable children and young people on the edge of care, in care and leaving care to dream big and achieve their goals, no matter their start in life.”
The original concept of QD Stores’ quality discounted retailing was first established back in 1985 by the company’s CEO Nick Rubin’s father, and current Chairman, Danny Rubins. The aim was to offer customers a wide range of constantly changing, quality products at discounted prices, which led to the stores’ name QD – short for Quality Discounts. The first store was located in Anglia Square, Norwich, where it is still open today.
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