Response to House of Commons Education Committee report on fostering in England

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The House of Commons Education Committee has, today, released a report on fostering following an inquiry which began in October 2016 and to which The Fostering Network submitted written and oral evidence. The Fostering Network was instrumental in convincing the committee of the need for the inquiry and welcomes the report

In response to today’s report on fostering in England by the House of Commons Education Committee, Kevin Williams, chief executive of The Fostering Network, said:

‘We were delighted that the Education Committee carried out their inquiry into fostering in England, and welcome this comprehensive report. We hope that many of the recommendations are reflected in the forthcoming report of the Government’s fostering stocktake. We also agree with the committee’s conclusion that the Government should carry out a review of the full care system, rather than consider each element as if they were entirely separate.

‘In particular, we are pleased that the committee has included many of The Fostering Network’s recommendations, including the need for all foster carers to be given an allowance that fully covers costs, a push for more funding to make staying put work, access to whistleblowing legislation and a recognition of foster carers as child care experts who must be treated as equal members of the team. The emphasis on listening to children, the need for foster carers to be given more information about children and the drive for better matching, stronger support and improved placement stability are also signs that the committee has listened to the evidence from the sector.

‘The call for consultation around a national college for foster carers is also to be welcomed, although we feel there is some inconsistency around pushing for this professional body while stating that foster carers should not be classified as professionals.

‘We recognise the importance of raising awareness of the need for more foster families, which is why we have run Foster Care FortnightTM for many years. The key point is that this is done jointly with fostering services, as recruitment is an activity best carried out locally. What is crucial is that all fostering services understand exactly who they are looking for, and target recruitment accordingly, and that they ensure that the package of financial and practical support is sufficient to attract and retain these foster carers.

‘We would argue, therefore, that in order to recruit and retain enough foster families for all the children who need them, ensuring they are properly paid is key, and we are disappointed that the report makes no mention of this. Our recent survey found that only one in 10 foster carers receives an amount equivalent to the national living wage for a notional 40-hour week. This means that fostering is just not a viable option financially for many people who could, with the right financial support, become foster carers and provide loving, stable homes for children.’