This Week in Fostering feature: Fostering stocktake gets underway
This week we look at the context and plan for the fostering stocktake – time to submit your views. We will be back next week with our general news round-up.
Ten months after recommending a “fundamental review of foster care” in his report into residential children’s homes, Sir Martin Narey has been named by the Department for Education (DfE) as the person to jointly lead a review or stocktake alongside children’s social work consultant Mark Owers, to consider how to improve fostering in England.
While researching for his review on residential children’s homes (TWiF 12 July 2016) Sir Martin said he encountered “concern… about an increasing dislocation between the types of foster carer generally recruited and the needs of children needing to be fostered”. He also said that while private sector children’s homes did not appear to be making excess profits the same could not necessarily be said about some of the profits made by independent fostering agencies. He was challenged over some of the comments at the time by Harvey Gallagher, chief executive of the Nationwide Association of Fostering Providers. “Do we understand the link between meeting children’s needs and economics? I don’t think we do,” he wrote in this article. Speaking to TWiF following the launch of the fostering stocktake Harvey said he was looking forward to seeing an evidential base for any conclusions and recommendations from the stocktake aimed at achieving the best outcomes for children.
The stocktake which was announced by Education Secretary Edward Timpson last July will cover many of the elements already placed under the spotlight by the Education Select Committee’s inquiry into fostering. The committee’s formal sessions concluded last week, the day before the stocktake was announced (TWiF 20 April 2017). However the two activities are completely separate, said the DfE’s Jenny Briggs who is helping administer the stocktake. “We will expect all those who wish to submit evidence for the consideration of the reviewers to do so,” she said. “As a result of the stocktake [which will end in December], the reviewers will identify the most significant challenges and issues currently facing the system and develop suggestions for improvements.”
The remit of the review is broad, inviting feedback on “the current state of foster care in England and how the prospects of children in care might be improved through changes to fostering”. Submissions are invited via email or post with a deadline of 16 June, although there is no further detail on how long they should be or how they should be presented. Responses are particularly invited from past and present foster carers, children in care and care leavers. Among the issues under the spotlight are “The status, role and function of foster carers in relation to other professionals as part of the team working with a child in care,” how foster care is commissioned and what could be done to improve the experience of children entering, leaving and moving around the care system.
While this is the first public announcement regarding the remit and the activities of the stocktake work has already got underway. Mark Owers has chaired meetings bringing together associations and organisations from across the full range of the fostering spectrum, including the Fostering Network, CoramBAAF, the Nationwide Association of Fostering Providers and the Association of Directors of Children’s Services in a bid to tease out the scope of the fostering stocktake. Meanwhile King’s College was commissioned to carry out a literature review that is also intended to feed into the stocktake. “The reviewers will consider both quantitative and qualitative sources of information, including the latest data available from the Department and other sources, and published research alongside the views of children and young people, carers, social workers, local authorities, independent agencies, representative organisations, and other bodies and individuals that have a role to play in the fostering sector. This will be done through a variety of approaches,” the DfE’s Jenny Briggs confirmed.
Meanwhile an independent review of the care system in Scotland is already underway following the appointment earlier this year of its chair, Fiona Duncan, Chief Executive of Lloyds TSB Foundation for Scotland. “The review will look at the underpinning legislation, practices, culture and ethos of the care system,” the Scottish government said. “It will be driven and shaped by the evidence of care experienced young people and propose changes to the care system that will improve both the quality of life and outcomes of young people in care.”
Contribute the review of Fostering in England – full details here
Photo by Khürt Williams