19 January 2017: News round up
TOWER HAMLETS must provide backpay and other costs to a woman it failed to recognise as a kinship carer for six years, the Local Government Ombudsman has ruled. The woman, a single parent, took on a sibling group of three after their mother was unable to care for them. The children continued to attend their usual school located some distance away and their attendance went from poor to excellent. Reporting on the case, Community Care quoted Cathy Ashley, chief executive of the Family Rights Group as saying: “The Local Government Ombudsman is still seeing a disappointing number of cases where councils try to pass on responsibility to somebody else when records clearly show they should be responsible for supporting the children… This is inexcusable.”
COMMUNITY CARE also reported on a move by Bradford Council’s Tory opposition to “call in” the decision made by its executive to reduce the amount it pays foster carers to government minimums to avoid legal challenges (TWiF 12 January). Meanwhile the Transparency Project investigated the case law originally cited by the council to justify its decision. “Many question Bradford’s claim that not aligning rates across the board leaves them open to the cost of future legal challenges and speculate that the decision is likely to be driven by savings given the absence of any recent change in the legal landscape,” it said.
The Transparency Project’s own specialists said they were unaware of any recent case law that might have prompted the council to believe that changes to foster care payments were now needed to avoid potential legal challenges. The only “recent” example stemmed from a case in Lewisham in 2008. “What does seem clear is that Bradford’s decision as reported by the Telegraph and Argus is not about new law but about interpreting existing law in the context of unprecedented council budget pressures,” they conclude.
SARAH ANDERSON takes up the subject of payments to foster carers in the Guardian – and why foster carers need their own union. “We’re the epitome of the gig economy,” she says. “But the care we give these children on behalf of their corporate parent – the government – is important. We need and deserve workers’ rights and professional respect.”
MEANWHILE THE US Chronicle for Social Change reports that every incidence of child abuse will cost the state of San Francisco on average $400,000 – about £325,000 – over the lifetime of the child harmed. The data comes from a report by researchers with the San Francisco Child Abuse Prevention Center and California University’s Haas Business School. While child welfare costs, including foster care, might account for 3% of this figure, most costs are associated with what the researchers called the loss of “lifetime productivity”. The study calculated that an average value of $314,000 (£254,000) in lost earnings stemmed from a combination of poor school outcomes, poorer health and a greater likelihood of having a criminal record.
THE GUARDIAN covers new research from Legal Action for Women which suggests the rise in adoptions has not reduced the number of children in care, but instead has increased the number of those separated from their parents. This policy has in turn affected women on low incomes most of all, particular those who suffer domestic abuse, the report claims. “Mothers who are victims of domestic violence are refused help, blamed for ‘failing to protect’ their children, and punished with their removal,” Anne Neale, one of the report authors claims.
THE CHILDREN’S Commissioner has announced a spring launch for its new Stability Index (TWiF 14 June 2016) that will use the outcomes of a pilot project with a number of local authorities to provide new data and better understand which factors influence placement stability.
CATCH 22 has published a report on Social Media and Youth Violence including the results of a six month study of social media sites, among them the live streaming site Periscope, to capture the growing influence of social media on incidents of real-life violence.
CARE APPLICATIONS went down for the first time in 30 months, statistics from the court advisory service Cafcass revealed. There were 1,068 care applications in December 2016 – a 3% drop on the previous year.
THE REES Centre has launched its guide on teenagers in foster care at an event in central London. Among the speakers were Luke Rodgers, a care-leaver and entrepreneur with his own consultancy Foster Focus. Using his own case history Luke urged people to look past the list of negatives that were often included in the referral for a teenager needing a new foster placement – and instead find out about the person. “A referral can be a passport or a barrier,” he noted.
AND FINALLY Durham’s Children in Care Council has challenged local councillors to live as care-leavers as part of a two week challenge to highlight the issues faced by children leaving care.
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Photo by Fabian Blank