We none of us work in a vacuum: there are trends and influences that will impact and affect what it is we do, how we do it – even whether we go on doing it. So, another blog exploring the general foster care landscape. It’s one in which every day dedicated foster carers give of their best to provide the best for the children in their charge. The work is challenging, demanding and time consuming – which is why it is ultimately rewarding: no pain no gain as they say. Precisely because foster carers are very busy people, they may not always have the time to draw breath and take stock. Our blogs, therefore, aim to inform: it is important that there is an ongoing awareness of the broader social context. There will certainly continue to be a lively debate around the issues relating to foster care. This is especially likely following the recent foster care stocktake.
Only in March of last year, according to the findings of the US News and World Report’s edition of its annual “Best countries” report, the United Kingdom came fourth. In its ranking it was described thus: “The United Kingdom is a highly developed nation that exerts considerable international economic, political, scientific and cultural influence.” This was followed by what may yet prove to have been an over optimistic observation about the UK’s ability to withstand the consequences of Brexit. What are we then to make of the warning given by the president of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services, Stuart Gallimore, about the future financial viability of services that protect children and support families? What kind of cultural influence are we exerting when it is clear there is a serious shortfall in the funding available for vulnerable children.
At the recent ADCS conference held in Manchester, Stuart Gallimore, told the education secretary and children’s minister – Damian Hinds and Nadhim Zahawi respectively – “there is not enough money in the system, full stop.” He also warned “There is simply no fat left to trim, instead authorities up and down the country have found themselves having to cut back on early help services, which makes no financial sense.” A little background is called for: the chief social worker for children, Isabelle Trowler had only recently intimated that the amount of money in the system was adequate, but being spent in the wrong areas. This was challenged by Alison Michalska – former ADCS president – “ No! The money simply isn’t there!! Many good Councils, with excellent preventative services do not have the money to meet the demand placed on them by rising levels of child poverty and years of austerity.” Stuart Gallimore has the view that this is “just a bit of a rubbish debate.” And it certainly is. Why? Because, as the president suggests, funding which is all about “short term, ring fenced sums of money can never be the answer.” This is because it ends up being so much sticking plaster. Foster children and their carers deserve better than this.
Strategic funding planning for foster care and children’s services is what is needed.
Why is this so hard? Local authorities need to know that they are going to be receiving funding levels that will allow them to develop and innovate, rather than firefight all the time. It is a fair bet our leaders will be pleased the UK is ranked fourth, but can they be satisfied that our cultural influence be ranked so highly, whilst lurching from one funding crisis to another. Especially when these tend to impact on those most vulnerable: children, we should be doing our best to nurture and protect. Perhaps sensing danger, children’s minister Nadhim Zahawi said at the conference, that he had heard the “clear message” on funding. He then added – “I want to acknowledge this, and say that I am listening – and I particularly want to work with you to understand the evidence for additional investment.” Alarm bells should always sound when this well honed phrase ‘work with you’ is deployed. What does it actually mean? Will a long term strategy be formulated? Will this include measurable outcomes? Will the particular minister still be in place to carry out changes that might be identified as necessary. This is a phrase politicians cut their teeth on. Whatever the issue, it creates the impression that something will be done. It buys time.
Foster a change in priorities
Governments have fought wars that have cost untold millions. We have the theory of the ‘Just War’ but; as most would agree, certainly one controversial example waged in Iraq hardly fitted this category. But the money, as always seems to be the case, was found. Perhaps the answer is to frame things differently. Could anyone disagree with the idea that a war could certainly be ‘Just’ if fought against inequality and disadvantage – especially if those most vulnerable to these effects are children? Unlikely. So hopefully Nadhim Zahawi will agree, especially as he said in relation to funding: “I want to acknowledge this, and say that I am listening – and I particularly want to work with you to understand the evidence for additional investment.” So far so good: one recent war, as he will know, was embarked on based on the flimsiest of evidence. We have a wealth of evidence relating to the disadvantages faced by ‘looked after children’. Let’s ‘wage war’ on these and then the funding can flow. Or is it that this is a cause without much opportunity for personal vainglory?
Could you be a foster carer and join team Rainbow?
At Rainbow we are nothing if not a team. Every day our foster carers are supported so they can change the lives and prospects of the youngsters they look after. It’s truly rewarding work. It may at times be challenging, but if you are going to do anything worthwhile in life there will be challenges. We are here to help our foster carers meet the challenges and relish the rewards.
We never forget foster care should also be about FUN! If you like children of all ages, want to do something extremely worthwhile and have the opportunity to build a career, then begin your fostering journey today by calling 020 8427 3355. We can send you an information pack which covers a whole range of areas – such as types of fostering, foster carer requirements, fostering allowance and how long does it take to become a foster carer.
All blogs written by Will Saunders: Rainbow Fostering – Content Management/Marketing
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Nationwide foster care survey launched by leading charity