Kevin Williams, chief executive of The Fostering Network, said in response to the publication of the care leavers strategy Keep on Caring in England: “The Government in Westminster has set out ambitious but practical goals for supporting care leavers on their journey from care to independence in their care leavers strategy, Keep on Caring. These are warmly welcomed by The Fostering Network, and we believe the strategy can make a significant positive difference to the future lives of care leavers as they make the transition into adulthood.
“In particular we welcome the enhanced focus on corporate parenting which calls for all departments within local authorities to recognise their duty as corporate parents. We believe that a more joined up approach of working can be the remedy to many of the issues that foster carers and young people inform us cause short and long term damage to their future prospects. We would also call on the Government to extend these corporate parenting principles beyond local authorities, so that health services, in particular mental health services, are included.
“When introducing the care leavers strategy, Edward Timpson MP, children’s minister in England, said, ‘… I am determined to ensure that the state and wider society play a much stronger and more active role in improving care leavers’ life chances. For me, it’s the hallmark of a compassionate society….It [care leavers strategy] asks local and central government to up their game as corporate parents, using the level of support that we expect a reasonable parent to provide for their child as the benchmark for how they should approach their role.’
“We wholeheartedly endorse this statement. But while the strategy, and the vision within it, is positive, we would call on the Government to ensure that the strategy is fully supported by the level of funding that will enable local authorities to fulfil their obligations.
“The Fostering Network, which campaigned for the introduction of Staying Put, has continuously called for the programme to be adequately funded as this has not so far been the case. Some placements have not been able to continue because the foster carer has not been able to afford to let it happen – and so we call on the Government to ensure that no young person has to leave their fostering placement at 18 for financial reasons. We believe that the Government’s commitment to reviewing the implementation of Staying Put will acknowledge this and we look forward to working with them via our Staying Put working group to find positive ways forward.
“We welcome the recognition that relationships with former foster carers are important to care leavers, and we would like to see that recognised in the upcoming Care Leavers Covenant. This reflects the Keep Connected campaign, that we are running throughout the UK, which focusses on allowing children and young people to stay in contact with their foster carer after a placement ends.
“By identifying five key areas to monitor outcomes, and establish a cross-departmental senior Whitehall officials’ group to review progress, the Government is recognising that it needs to take a holistic approach when supporting care experienced young people transitioning into adulthood. This can only benefit these young people as they strive to achieve their dreams and meet their potential.
“Keep on Caring could well be a giant leap forward for care leavers who deserve to have a Government and society which is passionate about their successful futures. The Fostering Network applauds the commitments made, and will work with our partners to ensure that those commitments are kept.”
You can read Keep on Caring on the Government website.