Our campaign to secure the 15 extra hours free childcare for fostered children. All other children in England are entitled to this new provision, yet fostered children are currently excluded!
CAMPAIGN SUCCESS! On 19 December the children's minister Robert Goodwill MP announced during a debate in Westminster Hall secured by Lisa Nandy MP that he has instructed his officials to allow fostered children 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.
So far in the campaign we have:
- Had letters to the minister printed in The Times and The Guardian newspapers.
- Facilitated over 260 emails to nearly 200 MPs from supporters. You can take part below.
- 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 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 is incorrect on at least three counts:
1. The fostering allowance does not cover the cost of childcare.
2. 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.
3. It's not possible to review how the 30 hours free childcare is working for fostering families - it's not working at all because they are not eligible!
This same government line was repeated in a debate in the House of Lords on 29 November.
However, in answers to more recent questions, the children's minister Robert Goodwill, has indicated that the Government will be looking again at the policy, and we will be working closely with them in the months to come.
THANK YOU again to everyone who has helped in the campaign so far - it is clear that the pressure we are putting on decision makers on this issue is beginning to have an effect.
Background to the issue
Fostered children aged three and four in England are excluded from the additional 15 hours of free childcare a week that have been made available to parents since September 2017.
All other children in England are now entitled to up to 30 hours a week of free childcare. This exclusion is discriminatory and inexplicable. It is unfair that the Government’s flagship childcare policy discriminates 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 have encouraged people to foster by saying that fostering can be combined with working outside the home, but foster carers will have 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 is outrageous that they are therefore being expected to subsidise a flagship government policy intended to improve all children’s lives.
For a summary of the issue, please download our briefing.