National Fostering Stocktake
Earlier this year the Secretary of State for Education appointed Sir Martin Narey and Mark Owers to conduct a National Fostering Stocktake to make recommendations on how to improve the fostering system for children and young people in England.
The review is designed to explore, “the status, role and function of foster carers in relation to other professionals as part of the team working with a child in care”. The Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain, which has been representing foster carer throughout the UK since September last year, will be calling on Narey and Owers to consider their employment rights – or lack thereof.
The main points they are looking at are:
• the types of fostering currently offered by providers
• the status, role and function of foster carers in relation to other professionals
• how we commission, regulate and inspect fostering settings
• what works best in fostering settings to improve outcomes for children and young people
• how we can improve the experiences of young people entering foster care, transitioning between placements, and leaving foster care
In May 2017, Jason Moyer-Lee wrote an article in The Guardian titled “Foster Carers desire working rights and decent pay. Why shouldn’t they?” He says that they give so much to vulnerable children, yet they’re victimised and misunderstood.” It is thought by many that foster carers are somehow “substitute parents”. There is little knowledge of the training that they have had and in many cases the qualifications they hold.
Foster Carers are professionals who have completed registration with the local authority or a private fostering agency. Foster carers receive foster care allowance for their work. In addition to this they are required to complete risk assessments, have medicals to show they are fit to care and have regular supervision. Whilst they often have Delegated Authority for the children in their care, they do not hold legal or parental responsibility for them.
The National Fostering Stocktake is welcomed by foster carers, social workers, and agencies alike. The hard work and dedication of foster carers should no longer be taken for granted. They need protection when things go awry e.g. when an allegation is made they need protection and support.
Foster care workers rights
The Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain is seeking to increase its membership of foster carers. They are working towards standardising procedures which would allow carers to foster with more than one local authority. They are also looking at bringing a foster care workers rights bill before parliament which “would allow foster carers trade union representation in disciplinary hearings, give them statutory protection for whistleblowing, and guarantee paid holidays.” It is inevitable that with such “rights” foster carers motivation will be called into question.
However, “The desire for working rights and decent pay should not be questioned for those who dedicate 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to looking after children and young people in the most vulnerable of situations.”