Following today’s publication of the Department for Education’s fostering stocktake report, based on a year of evidence gathering by Sir Martin Narey and Mark Owers, Kevin Williams, chief executive of The Fostering Network, said:
‘Today’s report appears to be a thorough stocktake of the current situation in fostering. However, despite some suggestions about how to refocus funding away from bureaucracy towards frontline support, we are disappointed in the report’s lack of vision and ambition for the future of fostering. While we are pleased with a number of the recommendations we are concerned that overall we will be left with a continuation of the status quo.
‘We welcome the stocktake’s affirmation that foster carers must be treated professionally. Foster carers do an amazing job looking after thousands of children on behalf of our society and it is good to see this so clearly recognised within the report.
‘We are pleased to see that the stocktake has made recommendations that pick up on some of the issues we raised in our submission, including the call on the Government to explore the costs and advantages of a national register of foster carers.
‘We were also heartened to see the recommendations from the report in line with our Keep Connected campaign that when children move placement they should routinely be consulted about the adults and children who are important to them and, unless it is not in their interests, contact with those adults and children should be encouraged and facilitated.
‘However we are shocked that the report states that foster carers are not routinely underpaid and are therefore disappointed that there is no move to ensure that foster carers are properly paid for the work that they do. We fail to see how it is “understandable” that new carers and those caring for younger children should not receive a fee for their fostering. We are also concerned there is no recommendation to review the minimum fostering allowance and that it not recommended that it is extended to staying put.
‘We also feel that the report underplays the impact of badly managed allegations on so many foster carers. We agree with the report that fostering services must follow the existing guidance for allegations, however the guidance has been in existence for some time and this report offers no recommendations as to how the guidance might be more robustly implemented.
‘There is a fixation on legal status rather than a child’s individual needs, and crucially the call to move children out of fostering into SGOs and adoption completely ignores the availability and benefits of long term foster care and staying put.
'Overall we think this is an opportunity missed to create a foster care system fit for the 21st century and for the tens of thousands of children who live with foster families every day. We will however be responding in detail to the full report and look forward to ongoing engagement through the consultation process.’