In the news round-up this week: fostering professionalisation agenda rejected by new head of ADCS, 2016-17’s care application figures show massive hike, measuring educational achievement of children in care, care-leavers housing project funded, new Coram guide for migrant children, Match fostering pilot evaluation and Welcome to Fostering book launch
New ADCS head rejects foster carer professionalisation
Alison Michalska, the incoming president of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services has signalled her firm rejection of further professionalisation in the foster care workforce and the idea of a national register of foster carers, describing both as “slightly mad notions”. In her inaugural speech as association president this month she mentioned the government’s fostering stocktake and the Commons’ Education Select Committee fostering inquiry in which both of these issues were discussed. Michalska referred to her predecessor Dave Hill’s appearance at the inquiry in which she said he was “polite but firm” in his rebuttal of the idea of national register which she described as “nonsense”. Michalska, who is Corporate Director for Children and Adults at Nottingham City Council continued: “There are other slightly mad notions floating around the fostering world too that may well lead us down the wrong path. There are risks in the over-professionalisation, specialisation or unionisation of foster carers.” She concluded, “What I find irritating about these kind of notions, is that they take no account of whether a highly professionalised, specialist, unionised foster carer workforce would improve the outcomes for the children they care for.”
Care application hike in 2016-17
In March 2017, Cafcass received a total of 1,288 care applications – a 4.3% increase compared with those received in March 2016, bringing the total for 2016-17 to 14,554, up significantly from 12,792 in the previous year. In February Cafcass chair Baroness Claire Tyler talked about some of the reasons that could be behind the spike in care numbers at the Care Crisis Seminar, hosted by the Nuffield Foundation. Among them were a better understanding of the issues around neglect and a reduction in funding to support children at the edge of care.
Measuring school achievement of children in care
In her latest blog Eleanor Schooling, Ofsted’s national director, social care, discusses some of the challenges around measuring school achievements of children in care. “Comparing the attainment of children in care with that of their peers doesn’t take enough account of those children’s experiences before they were looked after, or the high proportion of children in care with special educational needs,” she reminds us. “And it contributes to a stubborn and negative misconception that care, in itself, is damaging to children.” She goes on to say that there is a responsibility to tell the true story about what is happening for children in care and what works. “But perhaps we don’t always get it quite right,” she says. “For example I am aware of concerns that inspectors sometimes focused too much on – and are expected to report on – year-on-year comparisons between the attainment of cohorts of children in care. I’d like to slay that myth. There is no such expectation.” Ofsted launched a new common inspection framework for social care which has been in place since the start of April and includes inspections of independent fostering agencies and children’s homes.
Meanwhile three in ten head teachers are using pupil premium funding to plug budget gaps in their schools, according to a report by the Sutton Trust. Pupil premium is additional money paid to schools with pupils currently or previously in care, as well as those entitled to free school meals and children of armed forces personnel. The Trust’s survey follows recent findings from the Institute for Fiscal Studies that schools in England are facing their first real-terms funding cuts in 20 years.
Further funding for care leavers’ House project
CYP Now reports that a housing project where care leavers are involved with refurbishing empty properties that they then move into has received £3.7m in innovation funding from the Department for Education. The funding will enable the “House” project started in Stoke-on-Trent to expand into five new council areas – Warwickshire, Cheshire East, Islington, Solihull and Staffordshire. The government last month published a report evaluating the challenges and successes of the first project.
Coram guide to supporting refugee children
The Coram Children’s Legal Centre has published its latest version of Seeking Support: a guide to the rights and entitlements of separated children. Produced by the Migrant Children’s Project the guide aims to provide general, practical advice to professionals on how to support separated children and young people to exercise their rights and access their entitlements. The guide can be ordered online and will shortly be available also to download.
Match fostering agency project evaluated
Oxford University’s Rees Centre has published a brief evaluation into a project funded through the children’s social innovation programme which saw the Match fostering agency take on some delegated statutory duties from local authorities for young people in long-term foster care. This involved the Match supervising social worker taking on the role of both local authority child and fostering social worker, including statutory visits, looked after children reviews and PEP reviews as well as contact and work with birth family. The eight long-term fostered young people recruited in the short project had a consistent social worker through the project which was not the case for all the young people in the comparison sample.
Fostering book tells it like it is
And finally, publisher Jessica Kingsley is publishing Welcome to Fostering – intended to cover “the joy and wonder of fostering as well as how to cope with the crises and setbacks”. The book will be launched on 8 May ahead of Foster Care Fortnight and features a foreword by Lorraine Pascale who was fostered. It is edited by Tact CEO Andy Elvin and ex Times news editor and current foster carer Martin Barrow.