Following Gavin Williamson’s appointment as Secretary of State for Education in England under the new Prime Minister, chief executive of The Fostering Network, Kevin Williams, said: ‘We welcome the new Secretary of State to his role and hope that during his tenure he and his team will pay significant attention to foster care and the needs of looked after children.
‘We know that fostering acts as a protective factor on the educational outcomes of children so we look forward to working with Mr Williamson and his team, in their role as corporate parents, to ensure that foster care is the very best it can be for fostered children and the families who look after them.
‘Here are some of the issues facing fostering that we hope the new Minister and his team will address as a matter of urgency:
‘Given that foster carers in England are looking after 55,000 fostered children (three-quarters of looked after children) every day, it is vital that there is a focus on supporting these carers in their role. Currently too many foster carers feel marginalised and undervalued within the childcare team. They are highly trained and dedicated childcare experts and should be regarded as such. Improving the status of foster carers is essential if we are to retain them and recruit the thousands more that are needed each year.
‘The majority of foster carers tell us that the money they receive to cover the cost of looking after the children in their care is insufficient, so we call on the new Minister to initiate a review of fostering allowances.
‘We also urge the Minister to back our call for a central register of foster carers in England which would not only support the improved status of the role, but also address the prominent challenges of foster carers moving from one service to another, and the need for more robust safeguarding measures in the fostering sector.
‘Positive relationships are essential to achieving good outcomes for looked after children. We understand that when they are severed it can prove extremely damaging. This happens all too often when a child moves on from a fostering family. We want to see the Department for Education develop guidance and regulations to ensure that fostering services support the bond between the former foster family and a child when they move to another home.
‘Finally, while we were delighted with the introduction of the staying put legislation allowing young people to remain living with their foster families until the age of 21, too few young people are benefiting from this policy. The new Minister must prioritise the proper implementation and funding of staying put.
‘It is vital that as a society we understand, recognise and support the transformational power of fostering and we look forward to the Minister playing his part in making that a reality.’