We’ve had an excellent start to our access to free childcare campaign. Since launching it last week with a letter printed in the Guardian signed by 12 other organisations, we have had an unprecedented response from people lending their support to the cause. It really is scandalous how fostered children in England have been so explicitly excluded from the extra 15 hours of free childcare, but we’re determined to reverse this decision!
- We started out by writing to the children’s minister, Robert Goodwill, about the issue. 12 other organisations signed the letter.
- A similar letter was then printed in The Guardian and The Times on 8 November.
- Articles in the press then followed in The Guardian and Children and Young People Now
- Robert Goodwill has not yet officially answered our letter, but in the above article his quote implies that childcare should come out of the foster carer’s allowance. This is incorrect: the foster carer's allowance does not cover childcare costs. Therefore this is an entirely unsatisfactory response, not least because foster carers are so poorly paid as it is. He also said that the Government would keep how the policy is working for foster families under review. We cannot see how it is possible to review how a policy is working for foster families when the children they are looking after are not eligible.
- We have started contacting MPs – asking them to raise the issue with the minister and lend their support to the campaign.
- We were delighted that Lord Beecham has tabled a question in the House of Lords.
- We have also asked foster carers and members of the public to write to their own MPs. A big thank you to everyone who has so far got involved in this way. Already 96 MPs have been contacted. It’s been particularly great to see people adding their own take on the issue, so if you’ve yet to write to your MP then please do so, and try to include a personal touch as well. For instance we have heard some examples from foster carers of children no longer being able to access the extra 15 hours of childcare once they came in to care, and foster carers who have paid for the extra hours out of their own pocket. So please do include examples from your own experiences of why it is important that children in foster care are not excluded from this policy.
We are working together with the shadow minister for early years, Tracy Brabin MP who is leading this in the House of Commons. She is bringing together foster carers for a meeting in parliament on 28 November at 12pm. If you feel you have a strong case study to demonstrate why the extra 15 hours of free childcare would work for fostered children you know of or look after, and would like to take part in this meeting, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. Tracy is also planning on putting in for a Ten Minute Rule Bill on the subject, and is chasing the minister for a response to our letter.
Thanks as ever for your support, and get in touch if you have any questions. Don't forget to write to your MP about the extra 15 hours of free childcare for fostered children if you haven't already done so.
Watch this space for more news, and sign up to our campaigners email list to be kept up to date on our other campaigns work.