Foster carers should be aware that the official launch of the children’s social care review is upon us. It is led by Frontline’s ex CEO Josh MacAlister. Stakeholders, such as Daniel Croft CEO at FosterTalk, are correctly seeing this as a propitious moment: “We cannot afford to lose a once in a generation opportunity to help inspire such a positive change to children’s lives.”
Everyone who works in fostering should sign up to this sentiment. Especially as Daniel Croft says we have an “opportunity to reform systems and services, to implement major challenges and inconsistencies in practice as well as outcomes for children.” He calls for foster carers to contribute their views and be a key part of the review process. For, as he rightly puts it, “no other party has the breadth or wealth of knowledge that foster carers do.” This is undeniably true but we have been here before. It is not that long ago that we had a Fostering Stocktake which promised much but seemed to only divide opinion. Certainly, it failed to impress the country’s leading charity, The Fostering Network. The Stocktake seems an eternity ago – it wasn’t – but it was before the pandemic which has changed us and the world we live in. In this country, it has had many consequences: economic, social, political and technological. The structures we rely on to deliver services and organise daily life have been severely challenged and in many cases found wanting. Some, if you subscribe to the views of the retiring children’s commissioner Anne Longfield, are barely functioning – not even fit for purpose. So if ever there was a time for a wide-ranging review, this is it. For too long a heuristic approach has been adopted to solving the many-faceted problems of children’s care. Or, put another way: firefighting. The pandemic has revealed how mental health issues, educational attainment and access to technology are all linked. To guarantee children’s social care can deliver the outcomes we want, a holistic and strategic approach will be needed. This is the only way to ensure all children – especially those from the most deprived and challenging backgrounds have a fair chance.
Fostering fact: did you know there are around 44,500 foster families in England?
The main focus has to be on educational opportunity and attainment. When children from the most disadvantaged backgrounds can be seen to be succeeding, there can be confidence in the structures enabling that success. The circumstances that hold them back will also be thrown into sharp relief. The pandemic, like a retreating tide, has revealed the many inequalities and measures needed to address them. Throwing money at problems rarely works: thousands of children were handed laptops but lacked access to quality broadband.
Fostering fact: did you know there are around 44,500 foster families in England?
The review should be all-encompassing but must recommend solutions that are simple and straightforward. That way they can be implemented at scale and, critically, at speed. We have a generation of children who have lost out and had their life-chances compromised by the pandemic. The Independent review lead by Josh Macalister will consider how the children’s social care system responds to the children who are referred to it. It will consider how needs are identified and met from early intervention to children who become ‘looked after. It will look at fostering, residential and kinship care. A decision has yet to be made about whether it will include care leavers. I think there is the strongest possible argument it should as in the ‘Terms of reference for the independent review of children’s social care’ it’s stated –
“The implications if we are not able to fully support children to achieve their potential are clear: children who have been in care comprise 25% of the homeless and 24% of the prison population. Over a third of care leavers (39%) are not in education, employment or training compared to 13% of all 19-21-year-olds and just 13% progressed to Higher Education by age 19 compared to 43% of all other pupils.”
This means that setting the goal of raising that 13% to something closely approaching the 43% figure will; when accomplished, tell us we have our systems working. The relationship between these figures is the one that has to be watched.
Fostering fact: did you know Over 65,000 children live with almost 55,000 foster families across the UK each day?
The Department for Education has signalled this review as being:
“A once-in-a-generation opportunity to reform systems and services”, tackling “major challenges including the sharp increase in recent years in the number of looked after children, inconsistencies in practice and outcomes, and the failure of the system to provide sufficient stable homes for children”.
The review will cover issues including:
Fostering fact: did you know 57,380 children were living with foster families on 31st March 2020?
Justin Rogers, The Martin James Foundation’s CEO, is optimistic:
“This wide-reaching review has the potential to make much-needed improvements to child welfare in the UK. It is fantastic to see that the aim is to keep children and families at the centre of the review, and I think it is important that people who have direct experience of social care including foster carers can share their perspectives on ways to improve things. There are many inspirational care experienced people who have gone on to lead amazing lives, however, we know from the statistics that too many are left behind and they are overrepresented in mental health and criminal justice services and many do not fulfil their potential. Children and young people enter care through no fault of their own and it’s vital that they receive the care, support and love they need to thrive and this review offers an opportunity to bring about much-needed change and really make a difference.”
Josh MacAlister has said – This review will “Listen deeply and think boldly” – I would add that I hope it intends to act decisively. And why? “The implications if we are not able to fully support children to achieve their potential are clear: children who have been in care comprise 25% of the homeless and 24% of the prison population.” (Terms of reference for the independent review of children’s social care: a bold and broad approach to support a fundamental review of children’s experiences.)
Rainbow Fostering for a colourful and rewarding fostering career.
If you can provide a safe and stable home environment for a vulnerable child, then we have many opportunities to offer you at Rainbow Fostering. Right now, we’re actively searching for more new foster carers. So, if you think you’ve got what it takes to help a child build their essential life-skills and fulfil their potential, please contact us.
Potential foster carers can sometimes worry about whether they are the ‘right sort’ to foster. We always tell our applicants there is no such thing as the perfect foster carer. Our carers come from an amazing, varied range of backgrounds. We celebrate that – as well as the diversity of our foster carers.
If you have a spare room and are really motivated to support a child into adulthood, then we’ll be glad to welcome you into our family of foster carers.
Please take the time to visit our website to find out more. You can also apply on our website. We can also email you our information packs about fostering or send one of our newsletters. This will give you a picture of what it’s like to be a Rainbow foster carer.
Call 0330 311 2845 and we can start your application today.
Rainbow: rated ‘Outstanding in all areas by Ofsted’ arranges well-matched foster care for categories that include – siblings, teenagers, Parent and Child and asylum-seeking children. Rainbow has been one of the leading independent fostering agencies for well over two decades. We work closely with local authorities across London, Birmingham, Manchester as well as arranging placements in the Hampshire area.
There’s no obligation if you contact us – just the chance for a friendly chat. And we can email you a wealth of information about what foster care involves.
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Rainbow putting the focus on fostering.