No one reading the recent letter about the foster care stocktake from the chief executive of The Fostering Network, could be in any doubt as to the sincerity underlying his disappointment. This is the reaction of an individual who clearly cares passionately about the fate of the most vulnerable in our society: children. If a mistake has been made, it is to have assumed the concern and urgency of the government matches his. Did government really even need a stocktake? A few google searches would have generated enough information to reveal the effects of a confused, biased and dilatory approach to fostering provision. Only 6% of children in care going on to higher education, rising levels of mental health problems amongst care leavers and the waste of young people ending up in our prison system as examples. It is naive to think the government needed a foster care stocktake to find these things out. The reality is government thinking, as the chief executive has identified, has seen “fostering as a stepping stone to adoption or SGOs. In pursuing this, there has been a failure to prioritise foster care with the results now being experienced. Late in the day the stocktake was set up, and now to many appears to have been little more than a PR exercise. As the chief executive stated –
“There is nothing radical or brave within the report, nor anything that your department did not know about before the stocktake.* It is a missed opportunity and we fail to see how this is value for taxpayers’ money nor a good use of our and the wider sector’s time over the past year.”
He states further –
“The voice of the foster carer is woefully absent throughout, while the number of children and young people consulted is frankly appalling. In particular, the authors show very little understanding of the complex nature of fostering and its different roles for different children, and – insultingly – effectively dismiss long-term fostering as a permanence option by suggesting children should be moved on to SGOs and adoption to avoid the problems of staying put. Hardly a child-centred approach. There are also sweeping statements backed by little or no evidence, such as saying that “understandably” foster carers of young children and those with no complex needs are not paid. Understandable to whom, and why?”
Why is anyone surprised by this? The kind of radical transformation The Fostering Network rightly called for would have come with a hefty price tag. And this is a government now facing a Brexit bill of between £35 and £39 billion.
A more fundamental question can be raised – can we actually rely automatically these days on governments doing what is right? This seems heretical, but on the issue of fostering provision at least, it is clear our leading charity thinks not. Others may have different views. Perhaps it is worth looking at a seemingly unrelated issue in relation to the trustworthiness, or otherwise of government. This national headline from February this year is telling:
Air pollution: UK government loses third court case as plans ruled ‘unlawful’
The UK government has now for the third time been criticised by the courts for failing to deal with air pollution. The high court went as far as ruling that the government’s current policy on air pollution was “unlawful.” The government has been pursued for years by environmental groups -and with just cause, as 40,000 people are dying each year caused by serious air pollution. What is particularly significant about this judgement is clean air will now be overseen by the courts! This ruling has been described as “wholly exceptional” as the responsibility has been removed from ministers!
Vehicle Excise Duty and fuel tax raised approximately GB£32 billion back in 2009, with a further £4 billion being raised from the value added tax on fuel purchases. Motoring-related taxes for the fiscal year 2011/12, including fuel duties and VED, are estimated that will amount to more than GB£38 billion. This represented almost 7% of total UK taxation. Money Talks! And loud enough to drown out the staggering statistic that 40,000 of our citizens are losing their lives to air pollution annually. This is the equivalent to 96 jumbo jets crashing every year – would society tolerate that?
The issue of air pollution is one that any organisation, or individual working in areas connected with the care of children will be aware of. This is because the effects of pollution can be particularly damaging for youngsters. Children and young adults with asthma are more at risk from the effects of pollution as their breathing rates are faster and their lungs are still developing.
So we have a government instigating a stocktake about foster care, whilst seeing its responsibility for the quality of the air we breathe being taken away: a credibility problem to say the least.
According to the chief executive of The Fostering Network –
“The stocktake team received 300 pieces of evidence and met with hundreds of social workers, foster carers and others within the sector over several months. We ourselves submitted an official response and accompanying reports, as well as sharing all the findings of our State of the Nation’s foster care report (based on a survey of over 2,500 foster carers). We also held a specially convened session on staying put at the team’s request, and invited them to meet our members at a number of our conferences. And yet the report fails to demonstrate how it has drawn on any of the evidence collected, nor does it reflect the comprehensive literature review commissioned by the department. It also appears to give too much weight to personal opinions and bases its recommendations on the views of a very small number of people.”
Perhaps a great deal of time and honest effort could have been spared if the government’s attitude to air quality had been considered first. Given this, there should be little surprise in the well documented disappointments of the The Fostering Network’s chief executive. In the charity’s response, there is a final appeal to government to “look beyond” the report’s recommendations and set out an ambitious plan for foster care. Perhaps this would have been better directed at our judiciary.
At Rainbow our view when the stocktake was first mooted, was that an ambitious public awareness campaign about foster care was essential. This is because it is known that the general public have only a vague idea about fostering. The government has sponsored past research into the type of people we need to become the nation’s foster carers. They are people with naturally high levels of resilience who can meet a challenge head on. And it’s crucial we attract them as increasingly more children are entering care with complex needs and challenging behaviour. A sustained campaign could deliver a variety of messages about the rewards – not just monetary – of fostering. Failing to implement such a campaign does mean the stocktake has missed an opportunity to celebrate something very well worth celebrating – the selflessness of others.
Interest, passion and dedication are the qualities we look for in people wishing to train as therapeutic foster carers. You need to be able to provide a supportive and stable home for children presenting with a range of emotional and behavioural problems. The training we offer is always stimulating. When you work as a therapeutic foster carer, no two days will ever be alike. Please make sure you keep up to date with our blog series on therapeutic foster care.
More information is always freely available about foster care on 020 8427 3355, or our National foster care line is 0330 311 2845
Our latest fostering news story:
Improved support for foster care leavers announced
5th March, February 2018
Nadim Zahawi, the Children and Families Minister, has announced that £5m will be made available for three new Social Impact Bond projects. These will support care leavers moving into employment, training or education. The announcement regarding this funding was made (more) http://bit.ly/2e8PrIK
Good news at the end of our Rainbow…Rainbow celebrate ‘World Book Day’ with more followers!