Improving Foster Care: Webinar
01 December 2021
Debra Gibbs - Founder of Assurance: Parents and Carers is announced as a key speaker on 13th January 2022.
A recording will be available after the event
Other Key Speakers Include:
Steve McCabe MP, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Looked After Children and Care Leaders
Andy Elvin, CEO of TACT Fostering Charity
Tim McArdle, Head of Placement & Recruitment at UK Fostering
Harvey Gallagher, Chief Executive at the Nationwide Association of Fostering Providers
According to the Social Market Foundation (SMF), England’s foster care system is set to face a shortage of 25,000 foster families over the next five years. Each year, 1 in 5 foster families leave the system. While at the same time, the Local Government Association reported that in 2020, the number of children in care reached a 10-year high.
The SMF posit a number of explanations for the recruitment shortage in the foster care system: a lack of support for existing carers, increasing competition between councils and private agencies for potential foster families, increased poverty, a need to shield due to the pandemic, the end of the ban of eviction, and a backlog of court hearings. A recruitment crisis coinciding with increasing numbers of children in care may lead to vulnerable children being placed with families unsuitable for their needs.
Local governments are responsible for the children in their area in foster care however the government has a National Adoption Strategy which in part aims to counter the recruitment shortage in England’s foster care system. In May 2021, the then Education Secretary announced an additional £33 million for the Staying Put scheme which helps children in foster care stay with their carers after their 18th birthday, if they wish. Additional funding for early arrangements where a child is placed in foster care with prospective adopters has also been announced. The Foster Better Outcomes (2019) report outlines a number of policies aiming to improve experience with the foster care system: allowing foster carers to be more involved with day-to-day decisions in children’s lives, increased peer support and respite for foster families, a review of the training and development standard for foster parents, creation of a foster charter that all fostering agencies will be encouraged to adopt, entitlement to 30 hours of free childcare, and security in a national minimum allowance for foster parents. The government also point to Fosterline and Fosterline plus who provide independent and free advice to support foster parents.
Critics argue that regulation on private and voluntary independent fostering agencies is not adequate. The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) is particularly concerned about the high prices paid by local authorities alongside the inadequate supply of appropriate placements for children in their care. The CMA also notes that some independent fostering agencies were making profits of 20% on their income. Many are concerned about significant profits being made by a small number of fostering organisations on the back of children needing social care. The Social Market Foundation (2021) recommends: 1) A nationally coordinated assessment of effective capacity, 2) A national strategy for increasing effective capacity, 3) Providing local authorities with more support to meet their duties and improve accountability, 4) A national register for foster carers, 5) The adoption of regional commissioning.
Ofsted data has revealed that half of private and voluntary sector fostering placements are offered by only six companies. Two of these providers make up 31% of all places offered by private and voluntary agencies nationally. A loss of any one of these providers would leave further major gaps in supply. The Fostering Better Outcome report saw foster carers highlight their concerns with a lack of training for prospective foster parents, as well as a desire to push for national foster carer charter and a recruitment campaign.
This timely symposium will therefore provide local authorities, with an opportunity to engage with the foster care strategy and develop solutions for the recruitment shortage .It will also enabled stakeholders to share best practice on generally improve the experience of both children and families involved in the foster care system through an integrated multi-agency response.
• Identify key changes in the foster care system since the beginning of Covid-19 and develop strategies to address them
• Examine the role of government in improving the standard of foster care, and discuss options for future policy innovations
• Understand the role of local government in supporting the foster care system, and how they can better support the system
• Explore key challenges and priorities in the provision of foster care placements
• Plan and implement successful policy to address the recruitment shortage
• Discuss the successes of current support in place for foster carers
• Consider the wider causes of the foster care recruitment shortage and the increasing numbers of children in care
• Evaluate current regulation on independent fostering agencies and consider the concerns of the Competitions and Market Authority
• Explore the role of local government in improving experiences in the foster care system and what support they require from the national government