In many of the blogs written this year, we have focused upon repeating one key statistic: in a UCAS report from 2013 – ‘Looked after Children & Care Leavers’, it was found that only 6% of ‘looked after children’ and care leavers in England were found to have been in higher education. This compared to approximately 40% of the general population. The reason for ‘hammering’ on about this statistic is that this is the year of the ‘national foster care stocktake’: nothing is more important than maintaining awareness of this glaring fact. This is because, as a society, we will only be able to judge if fostering provision is working successfully once this statistic is closer to 40%.
Foster equal opportunity
So it is interesting that the former education secretary, Ruth Kelly, has now highlighted in a recent article that still only 6% of care leavers go to university, as compared to nearly 50% of the general population. From this she observed that they deserve better chances – who would argue with that? Her view is that a radical shake up is needed in education to assist vulnerable young people to continue with their studies. But this situation has pertained for a number of years – hence our pre-occupation with it at Rainbow. Much has also been written over a considerable period, on the associated problems such educational under-achievement results in. So for the uninitiated, here they are again: those youngsters who have been in care between the ages of 10 and 17 are five times more likely to be convicted of an offence – or subject to a final warning or a reprimand. And there are also huge knock on costs which impact on the NHS – particularly in the area of mental health, as so many youngsters still in, or leaving the care system, that have mental health problems. Children in our care system are also five times more likely to have been excluded from school. In general, they are far more prone to homelessness, teenage pregnancy and unemployment.
What is surprising about Ruth Kelly’s article is no mention is made of the national fostering stocktake. How can this be? Everyone with a vested interest in foster care – organisations, leading charities, individuals with profile and individuals without – have been contributing to this government sponsored initiative for a long time now. Surely she cannot be unaware of this exercise, or of the passion of those that have been contributing. Believing the things she does, and now armed with these statistics, one might have thought she would have been vociferous in the need for the stocktake to prioritise strategies to address this educational disparity. Ruth Kelly says: “When we think about how to help children in care, I believe that education needs to be at the heart of any solution. We also need to make much more of a radical intervention if we are to have a real impact on these children’s lives.” Again, why is such thinking (on which we have written repeatedly in favour of regarding the stocktake) not linked by a former education secretary to such a landmark exercise? Especially as this would provide the perfect and most timely of vehicles to propel her views. A puzzle indeed!
Another oddity in the recent article is that it was said, as education secretary, how impressed she was by the work of the Buttle Trust. This is an organisation who provide funding for disadvantaged young people to attend top boarding schools. Doing this can apparently dramatically change the lives of such children at a fraction of the cost of a residential care placement. However commendable this might be, it can surely never impact on the life chances of the 72,000 children in care in England. And as Ruth Kelly admits, the programme has not been widely adopted – which has been attributed to a number of factors – including boarding schools not being able to cater properly for children with complex needs.
Whatever else emerges from the national fostering stocktake, the foremost need is for a strategy that supports looked after children to become high achievers in education. When this happens, all the elements that make up fostering provision can be judged to be working successfully.
Have you considered joining another fostering agency?
If you are already a foster carer and have a long term foster placement, Rainbow will make the process of transferring to us efficient and trouble free. Joining Rainbow also means you may be eligible for a special ‘Rainbow Reward’ bonus: more information on this scheme can be gained by calling 020 8427 3355. We also pay out a ‘referral bonus’ of £500 if you are a foster carer and can refer an acquaintance interested in fostering. Once their training is completed, and they have received their first placement, the bonus will be paid.
Could you meet the challenge and be a foster carer in 2018?
There is a particular shortage of people wanting to foster teenagers or sibling groups. We want to hear from anyone interested in these areas of foster care. We provide support and training and are creating a specialist training programme for people who want to specialise in therapeutic foster care. However you want your professional career in foster care to develop, Rainbow will be with you every step of the way. We welcome applications from people regardless of their gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, religion or cultural background.
Siblings suffer due to a shortage of foster carers
12th December, 2017
The Care Inspectorate has produced a report stating around 20% of sibling groups in Scotland that are taken into care end up being split (more) http://bit.ly/2e8PrIK
And the good news at the end of this December Rainbow…the preparations for our Christmas celebrations continues and we are still getting excellent feedback from our recent Foster Carer Awards. Thank you again to all who attended and made it such a special evening!