Select committee fostering

Select Commitee Hearings | Fostering UK

Following an inquiry that was launched in the Autumn last year about Fostering in England, in February, the Education Committee held its first public evidence session as part of its inquiry.  The committee heard from foster carers and representatives of fostering organisations. Harriet Ward, Professor of Child and Family Research, Loughborough University, provided expert evidence at the House of Commons Education Select Committee inquiry on Wednesday 1st February into the wide range of issues currently facing the foster care system.

MP’s at the Education Select committee heard about the increasingly complex needs of looked after children in the care system.  Foster carers today are facing a tougher task and their status must be raised to give them the recognition they deserve.  I like many other foster care families have often felt unsupported in what can be an arduous task looking after a complex and vulnerable child. Professor Ward told MP’s that there is more evidence suggesting the number of children in care who have complex needs or have experienced abuse and neglect has increased.  Because of this foster carers have an increasingly challenging task in caring for and supporting these children.

It is no secret that the foster care system is under a huge strain. I have heard at many events that I have attended, about the shortage of foster carers in the UK.  There has been a huge bid across the county with local authority and independent fostering agencies to recruit more carers. Kevin Williams, Chief Executive of Fostering Network (charity giving information and support to foster carers), suggested that the answer is not merely recruiting more foster carers, but “We need to have fundamental, root-and-branch reform of the foster carer system that will then support new foster carers.”

Jackie Edwards who is a professional advisor with Foster Talk – an independent support provider for Foster Carers, suggested that the shortage of foster carers is in quite specific groups of children, for example children with disabilities, sibling groups and unaccompanied asylum seekers. Matching children to the right families is key – ensuring that carers have the necessary skills to meet the needs of each individual is crucial.

Companies like Simply Fostering, a national information and application service for people interested in becoming foster carers, are already working hard to ensure that carers are matched with the right agency. This further ensures that carers will in turn will be matched with the right children that they can care for with them with the skill set they have.  Simply Fostering also work hard to ensure they negotiate the right kind of support for carers from their agency.  All of this is to reduce the number of break downs between foster children and their foster families.

The select committee of MP’s is expected to hold at least three further hearings before June when their report will be produced.
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News Roundup Autumn

Simply Fostering News

Autumn 2016

New Union Formed for Foster Carers

The first foster carer trade union was formed on 19th September in Parliament by a group of current and former foster carers. The workers voted in favour of unionising and the Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain (IWGB) was launched. Present at the meeting was John McDonnell MP, the Labour Shadow Chancellor.

Foster carers at the meeting spoke about concerns about their pensions, pay and paid leave. Currently, they are not officially recognised as employees and as such do not receive the legal rights that come with a contract of employment. There are also concerns that foster carers are not involved in the decision making when a child is removed from their care. The vote in favour of unionising was virtually unanimous.

Education Award for Asylum Seeker

An asylum seeker from the Ivory Coast has won an international award for educational achievements. Yacouba Traore was a traumatised 16 year old when he arrived in England following the murder of his parents. Unable to speak any English, he moved in with a foster family after having to convince the authorities that he was really 16. Yacouba, who is from Stockton, is currently studying for a degree in Information Technology at Teeside University. The Fostering Achievement for Education Award was presented to Yacouba at The Fostering Network’s Fostering Excellence Awards which were held in September.

MP’s Launch Fostering Enquiry

An inquiry has been launched in England by MP’s to look at concerns over the foster care system. The number of looked after children is at its highest since 1985 and a reduction in the number of available foster care families will be one of the issues looked into by the House of Commons Education Select Committee. The inquiry will also look into the recruitment, retention and support of foster carers. According to research by The Fostering Network, more than 9000 additional fostering families are needed across the UK, to give loving and supportive homes to children. The committee chair, Neil Carmichael, has spoken of the need for ‘urgent attention ‘by the foster care system.

Numbers of Refugee Children Increasing

Rising numbers of asylum seeking children is causing concern for councils as they struggle to find placements for them. The number of unaccompanied minors coming into England has increased as a result of the migration crisis and this number will rise again following the Jungle Camp closure in Calais. The number of foster carers needed is currently estimated at 7,600.

The president of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services, Dave Hill, said that finding safe and suitable placements for unaccompanied children is the priority but it is becoming increasingly difficult due to the shortage of carers.

The costs to the council budgets which are already under strain could as a result compromise the needs of the refugee children.

Simply Fostering 2016

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Article News 2016

May 2016

More Help For Refugee Children

The government’s decision to take in more refugee children from Europe has been welcomed by Local Authorities and Children’s Services around the UK. David Cameron last week accepted demands to take vulnerable children from Europe as well as taking those from refugee camps.  The Local Authorities and foster carer networks have warned that existing funding to meet the needs of these children is inadequate and that work needs to be done to ensure they are being properly supported. The chairman of the Local Government Association’s asylum, refugee and migration taskforce, David Simmonds, said it costs an average of £50,000 a year to look after a child in care and that existing funding was not enough.

FCA Founder Recieves OBE

Foster Care Associates founder and Core Assets Children’s Services Group’s Executive Director, Jan Rees, has received an OBE at Buckingham Palace from the Queen. It is the first time that an honour of this level has been awarded to the fostering sector.  Jan and her husband Jim started a small foster agency in Bromsgrove which expanded based on their reputation for providing quality fostering services throughout the UK, and eventually globally. The nomination came from colleagues at Core Assets Children’s Services Group.

New Office Opened by Everton Legends

Foster Care Associates have opened a new office in Liverpool and they marked the opening with the help of Everton FC legends Ian Snodin and Graeme Sharp. The office is located in at the Meridan Business Village and will cover the area of Liverpool, St Helens, Widnes, Wirral and Warrington. FCA are the largest independent fostering agency in the UK, with around 50 offices nationwide.

Children’s Author becomes a Foster Carer

A retired primary school teacher and  award winning children’s author has become a foster carer in Buckinghamshire. Ann Meek, who won the Little Tiger Press New Author Prize in 2003 with her book ‘I’m Special, I’m Me’, will be reading her book at Buckingham Library as part of the Fostercare Fortnight. As parents to three grown-up daughters, Ann and her husband Neil waited until the time was right to foster and took their first sibling foster placements in February.

Britain’s Got Talent Contestant Records Charity Album

Ella Shaw, the Britain’s Got Talent semi-finalist of 2015, has recorded an album to help tackle the high demand for foster carers in the North West. Ella worked with children’s charity Child Action Northwest and hopes the album will encourage people to apply to foster. The album which is named 1200 voices, includes a performance that was written and sung by foster children and Ella. The voices of CANW’s  fostering staff, carers and children also feature, with versions of songs from artists Miley Cyrus, Clean Bandit and Eric Clapton. It available from canw.org.uk.