A Healthier Wales: Our Plan for Health and Social Care was published by the Welsh Government in June 2018. To support the delivery of more seamless models of care, Social Care Wales has been developing a long-term workforce strategy designed to understand what matters to the workforce as they deliver care.
The Fostering Network welcomes the development of a long-term workforce strategy for health and social care. We fully support the vision of the draft strategy and the belief set out in the foreword of the strategy that ‘we need to see what we spend on our workforce as an investment not a cost’.
We believe that this long-term workforce strategy is a valuable opportunity to recognise foster carers as a key part of the social care workforce. As of March 2018, 4,717 children were living with foster families which is 74 per cent of the 6,407 children in care looked after away from home in Wales. We estimate that fostering services need to recruit a further 550 foster families in the next year to meet the current need in Wales. These figures demonstrate the key role foster carers play in meeting the needs of looked after children in Wales and the opportunity this strategy presents to recognise the status of foster carers in the social care workforce. It is clear when a workforce is feeling well supported and valued and has a clear workforce development path it improves the experience of the children and young people who are being cared for by the workforce.
- Foster carers must be recognised and valued as the experts who best know the children they care for; their views must always be taken into consideration.
- Foster carers must be given the authority to make everyday decisions on behalf of children in their care without unnecessary delays and restrictions. Although this already exists in guidance, it is still not happening with sufficient regularity.
- Foster carers and fostering services must always be given all the available information they need to help children reach their potential and keep them and those around them safe.
- Introduce a national register for foster carers to improve their status in the health and social care workforce as well as ensure greater public protection.
- The Health and Social Care Induction framework to be mandatory for foster carers. If enforced, this would install a set of shared principles among foster carers which could improve outcomes, permanence and stability within the foster care population.
- All recruitment of new foster carers should be targeted to meet needs of the current care population, based on local authority’s needs assessments. No fostering services should be recruiting foster carers for whom there is no demand. Instead local authorities and independent fostering providers should work together to make best use of the existing foster carer workforce and ensure they are recruiting the right foster families to meet the needs of the children in, and coming into, care i.e. target and match skills of carers with the needs of children.
- The Social Care Workforce should support and promote the implementation of the existing Post Approval and Development Framework for Foster Carers.
- Foster carers should have access to a range of learning and development opportunities e.g. blended, online, self-study and mentoring in addition to traditional ‘classroom’ training.
- Foster carers learning and development should be a core element of the assessment, supervision and annual review process.
Foster carers should be able to attend integrated training with other members of the ‘team around the child’ including from other sectors such as health and education. Supporting carers and professionals alike to engage with new ideas and materials and share experiences is hugely valuable as it promotes learning from each other for the benefit of the child.