CEO Sarah Thomas gives evidence in the Senedd on plans to eliminate profit from children's social care


Today our CEO Sarah Thomas gave evidence to the Health and Social Care Committee in the Senedd on Health and Social Care (Wales) Bill which seeks to eliminate profit from children’s social care. Sarah gave evidence alongside representatives from Barnardo’s, Action for Children and TACT who were questioned by the members of the committee on the implications of the bill on care experienced children, foster carers and services and residential children’s homes. You can watch it back here. 

Sarah raised a number of points based on the written evidence we submitted to the committee which summarised the conversations we have had with our members over the past two years on the benefits and risks of eliminating profit from foster care. Our members in Wales include all 22 local authorities and 12 independent providers, five of which are not for profit providers. 

The Fostering Network is supportive of the key principles and aims of the bill and the rebalancing towards not for profit in children’s social care. The majority of our members in Wales welcome the Welsh Government aspiration to remove profit in principle but have concerns about the timescales, impact and workability of the process which we share. 

Sarah highlighted that the numbers of children in care in Wales are almost at their highest ever - 7,210 in 2022/23 - and that more children are being placed away from family and friends. She raised concerns about the impact of the bill on sufficiency in the sector and crucially children’s stability and best interests given the recruitment crisis in fostering and that numbers of foster carers are at their lowest ever. We have estimated that 400 more foster carers are needed in Wales in the next year and we are concerned that the bill may unintentionally result in there being fewer foster carers in Wales than we have currently. 

All members of the panel raised concerns around the transition period for profit making fostering services to transfer to become not for profits/charities. Sarah urged the committee to make the details of the transition period clearer so that the local authorities, charities and private providers who choose to transition can plan effectively, ensuring stability for children is central to this process. She called on Welsh Government to carry out a risk assessment once for-profit providers have decided whether they will transfer to charities or not in order to understand how many children will still be in placements with for-profit services.  

Sarah stressed the urgent need for improved public data collection to ensure robust monitoring of the impact of the bill. There is little or no public data on fostering provision in Wales and placements unlike other countries across the UK. 

Sarah also called for more action to prepare and support foster carers who choose to transition or with what happens if their agency closes. We are producing a guide to support carers with this.  

Sarah highlighted the value of introducing the register for foster carers which the Welsh Government committed to scope a year ago after they accepted the recommendation in this on the Radical Reform Inquiry. This would mean foster carers could transfer more smoothly as they would not have to start the assessment process again and mean the sector would not lose more foster carers. We call on the Welsh Government to urgently take forward this recommendation as it will significantly improve the implementation of the bill for fostering families. 

Sarah also raised concerns about the need for clear communications to foster carers over the coming months and that we will be supporting the Welsh Government with this to support our members. In our written evidence we highlighted the confusion that currently exists for some carers at the moment and that some who foster for profit making providers are feeling demotivated due to negativity around the financial model for their service and how we can support members to transfer, if that is the right decision for them. 

Today is just the start of the parliamentary process to scrutinise the bill over the coming year as it goes through the Senedd. We will be working with our members (both services and carers) from across all sectors to feed in their views of the impact of the Bill on themselves and the children they care for and supporting them with the impact through this time of transition. 

If you are a foster carer in Wales who is concerned about what the implementation of the Bill means for you, you can contact Fosterline Wales on 0800 316 7664. If you would like to share your views on the potential impact of the Bill on foster carers in Wales, you can contact the Assistant Director for Wales Elizabeth Bryan -