Fostering News: Companies profiting from foster care is 'a scandal' says leading Liverpool City councillor
A leading Liverpool councillor is calling for the profit to be taken out of foster care to enable millions of pounds to be reinvested in the care of some of the city’s most vulnerable children.
Councillor Barry Kushner, Cabinet Member for Children’s Services at Liverpool City Council, describes the current system of funding foster care as a scandal - saying that public money is boosting the pay packets of shareholders of private foster care agencies.
The number of children who need foster care is going up, and it has become a ‘growth market’ according to the Financial Times, while research carried out by not for profit research group Corporate Watch found that foster care has become a very lucrative business.
A lack of foster carers means that Liverpool City Council needs to pay private foster care agencies to ensure it fulfils its obligations to children needing a loving foster family.
The issue is being highlighted as part of a major campaign by the city council, and backed by the ECHO, to recruit more foster carers directly - rather than depending on private companies, many of which are owned by equity capital companies.
£20m - the 'too high' price of caring for Liverpool's kids in need
“There are 780 children in foster care in Liverpool and the cost is around £20m to Liverpool City Council,” said Councillor Kushner.
“Over the years the council has become increasingly dependent on private companies who provide this care for a profit.
“In 2016/17 there were around 290 children fostered by private companies, which accounts for £15m of the £20m we spend on fostering.
"As these private companies charge twice what a local authority pays its own registered carers, that is more than £5m that could be invested by the Council into children’s care.
“I’m not doubting the quality of the care provided by private companies, it’s the high costs that I'm keen to highlight.
“Directors enjoy very generous pay packets, while, according to Corporate Watch, some companies are siphoning profits out through tax havens in the Channel Islands and the Caribbean.”
A rise in the numbers of looked after children and young people and a lack of foster carers has prompted the campaign, which is backed by a number of famous names including Liverpool legend Jamie Carragher and actress Miriam Margolyes, whose mum came from Liverpool.
It aims to help transform the lives of children in the city who are most in need.
Increased demand means that more children are having to live in residential homes or are being placed with carers outside Liverpool, while some sibling groups are being split up.
Councillor Kushner is now urging foster carers who are currently with private companies to consider becoming a carer for the city council.
“In Liverpool, we are fortunate to be able to offer lots of help and support to our foster carers, including a 12-month rolling training programme. And every foster carer has a dedicated social worker,” he said.
Added Cllr Kushner: “Foster carers also receive lots of peer support from other carers and we hold events specifically to celebrate our foster carers and the children they care for and to bring them together, including family fun days and foster care awards.”
“Securing a stable home environment for foster children is vital if they are to have the best chances in life and realise their ambitions.”
“Whether you are older, single or never had children, you can foster."
"Foster carers just need to be able to provide a solid and reliable foundation for children and young people to find theirs.
“It is so vitally important for children and young people to live in a loving, stable environment, particularly after experiencing the upheaval and, sometimes, trauma of being placed in care.”
Liverpool City Council currently has around 1,100 looked after children and young people, with half of them being fostered and the others living in residential home settings.
The ages of children waiting to be placed in a compatible foster family range from babies up to 18 and foster carers are required to look after a child for anything from a few weeks to providing a loving home for many years. Foster parents are particularly needed for older children and sibling groups.
Anyone interested in finding out more can call 0151 515 0000 or check out www.fostering.liverpool.gov.uk
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