Harlow MP launches major report into foster care

News / Fri 22nd Dec 2017 at 11:10am

Halfon PAH

HARLOW MP Robert Halfon launches report calling for foster children to be placed with siblings, better foster child advocacy, and improved conditions for foster carers

Children in foster care must be given better information about their placements, placed with their siblings where possible and have access to advocacy services, a committee chaired by Harlow MP Robert Halfon has concluded in a report published today [Friday].

The Education Committee finds the foster care system is under pressure and that the Government needs to conduct a fundamental review of the whole care system to ensure children get the support they need. The report calls on the Government to do more to prevent unnecessary placement breakdowns, increase the number of foster carers in the system and improve working conditions by establishing a national college to support carers.

The Committee’s report makes a range of recommendations relating to valuing young people, valuing foster carers and valuing care.
Valuing young people

Rt Hon Robert Halfon MP for Harlow, 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.”

During the inquiry, the Committee heard from one young person who had been through eight placements in four years, another who had ‘moved six times in less than no time’, while another had lived in thirteen different foster placements and two children’s homes in five years. The Committee also heard directly from young people who had faced difficulties in maintaining regular and meaningful contact with siblings and family members.
Valuing foster carers

MPs took evidence from foster carers with one witness saying that carers felt ‘undermined, bypassed and treated as glorified babysitters’.
Mr Halfon said: “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. “

Valuing care

The Committee is calling on the Department for Education to initiate a national recruitment and awareness campaign to improve capacity in the system. It must also support local authorities and foster care providers in piloting new ways of working, especially through more early intervention and prevention.

The Committee’s inquiry into fostering was a continuation of work carried out by the Education Committee in the last Parliament. It received more than 100 pieces of written evidence. The full terms of reference can be found here.

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.

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