National fostering stocktake (England)

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Sir Martin Narey and Mark Owers were appointed by the Secretary of State for Education to conduct the national fostering stocktake for England during 2017. Their report, Foster Care in England, was published in February 2018 and it is fair to say that we are extremely disappointed with the content. 

Chief Executive Kevin Williams set out the detail of our disappointment in a letter to the children's minister, explaining why we feel the report demonstrates a lack of vision and ambition for the future of fostering. 

You can find out more about the stocktake, and read both our full response to the report and also our original detailed submission based on the views of over 2,500 foster carers, below.

Foster Care in England: our response to the report

The announcement of the fostering stocktake (now known as Foster Care in England) in 2016 was warmly welcomed across the foster care sector, and its recommendations were keenly anticipated. However, the overwhelming feeling following publication is one of a huge opportunity wasted.

We are extremely disappointed that the voice of the foster carer is absent throughout the report, while the number of children and young people consulted is very low and their views are not integrated into the main body of the report nor the recommendations. In particular, the authors show very little understanding of the complex nature of fostering and its different roles for different children, and effectively dismiss long-term fostering as a permanence option by suggesting young people should be moved to special guardianship orders or adoption to avoid the problems of staying put. The report is pre-occupied with legal orders rather than taking a child-centred approach. There are also sweeping statements backed by little or no evidence, such as saying that “understandably” foster carers of young children and those with no complex needs are not paid. Understandable to whom, and why? Other unsubstantiated sentences include “Carers overwhelmingly see fostering as a vocation, and see themselves primarily as substitute parents”. Phrases such as “many”, “often” or “too few” are used with no reference to real data, when the findings of research are not referred to at all.

While we agree with a number of recommendations, they are largely superficial and will only scratch the surface; the report makes almost no recommendations that we believe will actually have any significant impact on transforming foster care. There is nothing radical nor brave within the report, nor anything that brings new knowledge or understanding about the sector. It is a missed opportunity and we fail to see how this is value for taxpayers’ money or a good use of the sector’s time over the past year.

Read our full response to Foster Care in England (Fostering Stocktake)

Background to the report

During 2017, Sir Martin and Mark issued a call for evidence from all those within the fostering sector (including care experienced young people) about their views on the current state of foster care in England and how the prospects of children in care might be improved through changes to fostering. They wanted to understand what was working well and why, where improvements were needed to achieve better outcomes for children and identify areas where further research might be needed.

As well as encouraging our members to respond to the call for submissions and facilitating opportunities for Mark Owers and Sir Martin Narey to meet foster carers and our members, The Fostering Network submitted our own response which we structured into four interlinked areas:
  • the foster care system, which includes the way in which fostering is commissioned, delivered, regulated and inspected;
  • the foster care workforce, to include the status, role, and function of foster carers;
  • outcomes for children and young people in foster care; and
  • staying put implementation issues.
The stocktake report was published in February 2018, and we recommended that the Government consults widely within the sector before issuing their response to the report.