Education committee finds care system failing foster children

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MPs have called on the Government to conduct a fundamental review of the whole care system.


MPs call for review of fostering

The Education Select Committee’s first fostering report of 2017-2019, published today (Friday 22 December 2017), calls for higher value to be placed on young people, foster carers and care.  

The main recommendations of the report include:

  • ensuring all young people in foster care are meaningfully engaged, have full access to advocacy services and where possible are placed with their siblings
  • the establishment of a national college for foster carers, which will work to improve working conditions
  • a national recruitment and awareness campaign to increase capacity in the foster care system.

The report also asks the Government to do more to prevent unnecessary placement breakdowns and to review the national minimum allowance and tax rules for foster carers.

The Committee’s inquiry into fostering received more than 100 pieces of written evidence.

MPs also heard evidence from foster carers, with one witness saying carers felt ‘undermined, bypassed and treated as glorified babysitters’, and young people who had faced difficulties in maintaining contact with siblings and family members, including one young person who had been through eight placements in four years, and another who had lived in 13 different foster placements and two children's homes in five years.

Robert Halfon MP, chair of the Education Committee, said, ‘The foster care system is under significant pressure and yet this is an area of arguably greatest need. Foster children are some of the most vulnerable young people in our society but many are currently being failed by a care system which doesn’t meet their needs. Foster children shouldn’t face the prospect of a dizzying number of placements nor should they be excluded from decisions about their future. Efforts need to be redoubled to place children with their siblings.

‘The best gift the Government could give foster children this Christmas is to commit to improving the support they receive to enable them to climb the ladder of opportunity and thrive in their lives ahead. The Government also needs to do more to recognise the valuable service which foster carers provide. Establishing a national college would be a welcome step in this direction.’

The report comes in the wake of the announcement that foster carers will be able to access 30 hours funded childcare for the children in their care.

Mr Halfon added, ‘Foster carers have a really important role in society and are often providing fantastic care in sometimes difficult circumstances. But our inquiry showed it is clear that too many are not adequately supported, neither financially nor professionally, in the vital work that they do.

‘Following pressure from Committee members, we welcome the Government’s commitment to finally extending the extra 15 hours a week childcare entitlement to children in foster care. This opportunity to access good quality education will make a huge difference to foster children.

‘Ministers must go further however and show that they truly value foster carers by establishing a national college, which would work towards improving working conditions for carers, provide a resource for training and support, and give them a national voice and representation. It is only right that these hugely committed carers are given the support they need to help improve the lives of the young people in their care.’

Eleanor Briggs, head of policy and research at Action for Children, said, ‘Today’s report provides an important step forward in understanding how our pressurised care system could better fulfil its promise to support and protect the most vulnerable children and young people in England.

‘We particularly welcome the Committee’s emphasis on amplifying and acting on young people’s views when decisions are being made about their care. As the report highlights, it’s crucial there is consistency when it comes to applying Government guidelines related to the involvement of young people in their care. This is particularly important when providing young people with access to advocacy and in preventing placement breakdown.’

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