Our campaign to secure the 15 extra hours free childcare for fostered children.
On 19 December 2017 the former children's minister Robert Goodwill MP announced during a debate in Westminster Hall secured by Lisa Nandy MP that he had instructed his officials to allow fostered children in England to take up the extra 15 hours of free childcare from September 2018.
Thank you to everybody for your support during this campaign - we've made an important difference to the lives of many fostered children for years to come.
During the campaign we:
- Had letters to the minister printed in The Times and The Guardian newspapers.
- Facilitated over 260 emails to nearly 200 MPs from supporters.
- Secured many parliamentary questions, notably from Lord Beecham, Lisa Nandy MP, and Tracy Brabin MP.
- Met with a number of MPs to plan further action in parliament.
- Had a positive meeting with the Department for Education.
- Secured a Westminster Hall debate on 19 December.
The initial Government response to our call was unsatisfactory, citing the fostering allowance, tax concessions and benefits for foster carers as reasons for why fostered children should not be entitled to the extra 15 hours of free childcare.
This was incorrect on at least three counts:
- The fostering allowance does not cover the cost of childcare.
- The fact that foster carers have a beneficial tax and benefits system is irrelevant when it comes to justifying the discriminatory decision to exclude fostered children from the 15 additional hours.
- It was not possible to review how the 30 hours free childcare was working for fostering families - it was not working at all because they were not eligible!
This same Government line was repeated in a debate in the House of Lords on 29 November.
However, in the debate in December 2017 the then Children's Minister Robert Goodwill announced that the Government will be reversing the decision.
We are working closely with the Government to assist their development of this new policy. In March we convened a working group with the Department for Education and foster carers to discuss how the new policy may be designed to ensure that as many fostered children who are eligible - and for whom it is appropriate - will be able to take up the extra 15 hours from September 2018.
THANK YOU again to everyone who has helped in the campaign so far - it is clear that the pressure we put on decision makers on this issue had a positive effect.
Background to the issue
Before our campaign win, fostered children aged three and four in England were initially excluded from the additional 15 hours of free childcare a week that had been made available to parents since September 2017.
All other children in England were now entitled to up to 30 hours a week of free childcare. This exclusion was discriminatory and inexplicable. It was unfair that the Government’s flagship childcare policy discriminated against fostered children in such a blatant manner.
We know that many fostered children will thrive when surrounded by their peers, not least because they may well have had a difficult start in life, with little socialising with others before coming into care. These early years before school are crucial to their development. Of course not all foster carers will want take up the extra 15 hours, but it should be left to their judgment and that of the social worker as to whether it is appropriate or not.
This Government and the previous Government encouraged people to foster by saying that fostering can be combined with working outside the home, but foster carers would have had to pay for the additional 15 hours out of their own pockets, or enter into difficult negotiations with their fostering service.
Foster carers are already under immense financial pressure, with barely 10 per cent earning the equivalent of the national living wage for a 40-hour week. It was outrageous that they were therefore being expected to subsidise a flagship government policy intended to improve all children’s lives.
We were delighted that the Government was able to reconsider its policy in light of our campaign.