In life, everything turns on symbols: we can say certain things, but it is our actions that really testify to our intentions. 2017 is a very significant year in the world of foster care provision. The numbers of children coming into care have been rising steadily at the same as increasing numbers of foster carers have become disenchanted. It has fallen to dedicated fostering agencies to make sure that foster carers are appreciated and that the incredible work they do is highly valued. But the decision to exclude all foster children from receiving an additional fifteen hours of free childcare has to be a recipe for a perfect storm. Especially if it is included with much of the press coverage over the last twelve months that would have left the most disinterested reader under no illusion that the system is creaking. The government has responded to this pressure by instigating inquiries: perhaps the most visible of these is the ‘national fostering stocktake’ currently about to report. There has been plenty of time to create a comprehensive picture of what is happening in relation to the provision of fostering services – after all it was back in 2016, the then Minister of State for Vulnerable Children and Families, Edward Timpson, announced the ‘national fostering stocktake for England’. Sir Martin Narey and Mark Owers were appointed by the Secretary of State for Education to conduct the exercise.
Many charities and organisations will have contributed a large volume of both opinion and evidence. The leading foster care charity, The Fostering Network, has submitted a detailed response which will have left those in power with little ‘wriggle room’ in so far as it encompasses all the areas that need to be addressed as a priority. The Networks’ response has been structured into four main areas the charity describes as being interlinked, and are as follows –
• the foster care system, which includes the way in which fostering is commissioned, delivered, regulated and inspected;
• the foster care workforce, to include the status, role, and function of foster carers;
• outcomes for children and young people in foster care; and
• staying put implementation issues.
This is from just one organisation whose knowledge and experience is, as they write in the in the introduction to their ‘Response’ –
‘The Fostering Network is the UK’s leading fostering charity. We have been leading the fostering agenda for more than 40 years, influencing and shaping policy and practice at every level. We are passionate about the difference foster care makes to children and young people, and transforming children’s lives is at the heart of everything we do. As a membership organisation we bring together individuals and services involved in providing foster care across the UK. We have approximately 60,000 individual members and nearly 400 organisational members, both local authorities and independent fostering providers, which cover 75 per cent of foster carers in the UK. Our views are informed by our members, as well as through research; in this way we aim to be the voice of foster care.’
Can there be any doubt that their views and analysis should be informing all areas of policy making? And there are other highly respected organisations that will have made cogent and far reaching recommendations. We should all relax and take comfort from the fact that the government will have received a great deal of considered and expert advice – or should we? Why should there be cause for doubt? Well, in only the last few days, the government has come under pressure to reverse a discriminatory decision to exclude all foster children from receiving an additional fifteen hours of free childcare. And this pressure has come; in the form of a letter to a national newspaper: not just from The Fostering Network but also –
Kevin Williams, Chief Executive, The Fostering Network
Carol Iddon, Manager Director, children’s services, Action for Children
Natasha Finlayson, Chief Executive, Become
Maris Stratulis, England Manager, British Association of Social Workers
Kathy Evans, Chief Executive, Children England
David Graham, National Director, The Care Leavers’ Association
John Simmonds, Director, Policy, Research and Development, Coram Voice
Brigid Robinson, Managing Director, Coram BAAF
Jon Fayle and Paul Smart, Co-chairs, National Association of Independent Reviewing Officers
Rita Waters, CEO, National Youth Advocacy Service
Jill Sheldrake, Service Director, The Together Trust
Andy Elvin, CEO, Tact
Ron Giddens, CEO, St Christopher’s.
What is so significant here is that there is universal agreement from all these bodies with the view such a measure is questionable and counterproductive. Doubtless in the melee that will ensue -when the stocktake reports and the debate is opened up – there will be disagreement in certain areas. What; and returning to the idea of the importance of symbolism, is so significant is this discriminatory decision to exclude all foster children from accessing the additional 15 hours free childcare, suggests a government purblind to the intense debate that has surrounded fostering provision so long now. The pressure many foster carers feel – especially in terms of wanting more recognition and support – could have been recognised by insuring such a flagrant piece of discrimination never saw the light of day. As The Fostering Network states –
“foster carers are as group unpaid or underpaid, and are often expected to work outside the home and not rely on their fostering income; they may therefore benefit from this extra childcare. This may particularly be the case for family and friends foster carers and those providing long-term care.‘We believe it should be left to the foster carer and the social work team to decide what is best for each individual child and the wider fostering family. Foster children must have access to the same opportunities as other children, including the sons and daughters of foster carers who are eligible for the extra hours of childcare.”
There has been a widespread appeal for the Minister to ‘rethink this decision immediately’ – unsurprising, and yet so easily anticipated. We live, happily, in an era where there is a considerable amount of legislation directed against any kind of discrimination: curious then, that a situation has been allowed to arise where perhaps the most vulnerable group in our society – children without their own family – appear to be being discriminated against.
Meet the challenge and become a foster carer in 2018?
Whatever your religion, background or personal situation, at Rainbow we would be delighted to introduce you to the considerable benefits of becoming a foster carer. We are especially keen to meet people interested in providing care for a vulnerable parent and child. Teenagers are also a distinct group for which there is a shortage of foster carers. These are specialist placements, but with the right training and support they can be amazingly rewarding. The training we offer is outstanding and the support available is 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
Remember, there are literally thousands of youngsters who only want a safe place to call their home and with foster carers who make them feel that they have a bright future.
We are always happy to answer questions you might have concerning foster care. Again, should you be interested in parent and child foster care as a way of building a career in fostering, we can help in relation to all the aspects – including:
Are you thinking of transferring to another fostering agency?
If you are already an approved carer, and have a long term foster placement, and are contemplating transferring to another service provider, call us. We will make the process simple, smooth and stress free. And when you start at Rainbow Fostering, you may also be eligible for a special ‘Rainbow Reward’ bonus. information covering all these issues is available on 020 8427 3355. We also have a bonus ready of £500 if you are fostering and in a position to refer a friend or relative to take up foster care. Once their first placement has been made – and following your referral – the bonus will be paid.
The very latest foster care news stories…
Call for additional free childcare for foster children
November 13th, 2017
The Westminster Government has come under pressure to reverse a discriminatory decision to exclude all foster children from receiving an additional fifteen hours of free childcare. Charities and other organisations have attacked the decision as being unfair (more)
And the good news at the end of our latest Rainbow…more birthdays to celebrate this month – Happy Birthday to all!