Response to the Independent Review of Children’s Social Care Case for Change report
The Independent Review of Children’s Social Care in England, led by Josh McAllister, today published their Case for Change report. The Fostering Network welcomes the approach adopted by the review in publishing a case for change early in the process and we are pleased to see that they have highlighted the key issues in children’s social care to stimulate debate. However, we are disappointed to see that, despite describing foster care as the ‘bedrock’ of the care system, engagement with the fostering sector has been minimal, with low numbers of foster carers involved and no fostering specialist representation on review groups.
We are also concerned about the narrow definition of the workforce, with a focus on social workers rather than a wider recognition of all those involved in the delivery of children’s social care. The continued failure to position foster carers firmly as part of the social care workforce and a key member of the team around the child risks undermining their ability to meet the needs of the children and young people they are caring for. The Fostering Network firmly believes that, for those children and young people who cannot live with their families, foster care provides the most effective way to ensure children have safe, stable and loving family homes.
The case for change highlights the low conversion rate between initial enquiries and applications received and approvals for foster carers. We support an increased national focus on this area and full consideration that fostering is not a single entity, with consideration of whether it can be best served by a single framework or whether a different approach for different types of fostering is required which could support focused recruitment to ensure each child gets the caring home environment that is right for them.
The report recognises our work to deliver Step Up Step Down in Northern Ireland, which offers a programme of holistic and needs-led support, with a family support foster carer acting as mentor to parents and providing short breaks. We hope to see this model considered as part of the recommendations that come out of the final review.
The Fostering Network also wants to see long-term foster care being given equal status and consideration in permanence options, and for long-term fostering relationships to be respected and valued. The review should consider the different permanence options for a child and the access to support, as well as the factors which contribute to the decision of which permanence option is best for the child. We believe that children in long term foster care should have the same stability and legal protections as those in other forms of permanence.
We are pleased to see that the report highlights the journey and transition into adulthood and how important it is to a lifelong network of support and maintaining relationships. Staying Put is the start of this journey, but data suggests that only around 30per cent of young people were still living with their foster carers at the age of 19. Our own research shows variability in policy, practice and participation. In our last State of the Nation survey, 34 per cent of foster carers told us they had been prevented from entering a Staying Put arrangement with a young person in their care, despite both the foster carer and young person wanting it. It is clear that the Staying Put policy intentions are yet to be fully realised, and that a system needs to be designed to help nurture and maintain lifelong networks of support.
Kevin Williams, CEO of The Fostering Network: ‘The review is a huge opportunity for us to make substantive changes to improve the futures of all children in England. Reviews to date have failed to make the kind of impact that we want to see, and fostering and foster carers are still not being given the recognition and investment needed to ensure the best care is given to our children and young people.
‘While we welcome the case for change approach broadly, we will be looking for the review to consider the further issues we have highlighted here and in our submission, and will continue to push for foster care to be given the value it rightly deserves.’