Yorkshire councils unite to create 'vital' fostering partnership
Eight local authority fostering departments in Yorkshire have come together in a new partnership, a week after a group of directors from the North East questioned profit-making in the sector and whether it would be better for all foster carers to be aligned to their local authority.
Foster4YourCouncil will include Bradford, Calderdale, Hull, Kirklees, Leeds, North Yorkshire, Wakefield and York councils, aiming to encourage people in the region to consider becoming foster carers in their local communities.
The group say the new organisation will be “run by and for the people of Yorkshire” and confirmed that project will be “100% not-for-profit, ensuring all resources are spent directly on supporting children in care and their carers.”
Nationally, there is a critical shortage of foster carers with a recent report by the Social Market Foundation (SMF) suggesting that growing need means 77,000 children will need foster care by the end of the decade, an increase of more than 30%.
The forecasts were made in a report by the think tank, which finds that many local authorities are failing to fulfil their legal obligations to provide foster care that meets children’s needs and produce plans to meet future needs.
The eight councils are working together as Foster4YourCouncil to raise additional awareness of fostering opportunities and share leads across the county, ensuring as many foster carers as possible are recruited.
The announcement by the Yorkshire councils comes after the wide-ranging Review of Children’s Social Care found that while initial interest enquiries in fostering continue to grow, applications are decreasing.
The Review’s recently published Case for Change found that although there were 137,200 initial enquiries from prospective fostering households in 2019/20, only 8,805 applications were received. Of the 5,650 assessments completed by 31 March 2020, only 2,135 were approved.
"These figures are a stark demonstration of a public desire to do more to support children at
a time when the need is huge. They also raise serious questions about the fitness of our current approach to recruiting prospective foster carers - an area that has been given less national focus than adopter recruitment," the Case for Change stated.
A recent submission by councils in the North East of England to the Review of Children’s Social Care found that there are “significant and increasing” costs for children’s foster care. As the rates of children in care increase, so does financial pressure, the group said.
The twelve Directors of Children’s Services from the region say profit-making from children’s residential and foster care must be “eliminated or capped” and that the ‘market’ is not a true market and should therefore be “dismantled or radically overhauled”.
The announcement by the Yorkshire councils to join follows a similar line of thought to the North East councils, whose submission recommended that the Care Review examine whether it would be better for all foster carers to be aligned to the local authority in which they live or consider other options to have a single co-ordinated approach to recruitment and retention.
“Independent Fostering Agencies (compete with local authorities (and indeed local authorities compete with each other) in relation to recruitment of carers, but with a broad set of commercial advantages. Competition drives cost in the system and there is little or no evidence of the tangible benefits of this model,” the submission reads.
Concerns have also been raised regarding the ageing profiles of foster carers. The latest figures showed that, of the 71,150 approved foster carers, 25% were over 60.
“The older the carer the more likely they are to have ‘not available’ places, this means that an ageing profile of carer could be a bigger sufficiency challenge than we realise. Currently 8% of those places defined as ‘not available’ are due to young people ‘Staying Put’ after turning 18. This is a positive development, however, we have to address the additional pressure it will put on current carer numbers,” the Case for Change said.
Councillor Sue Duffy, Portfolio Holder for Children & Families said the group are looking for people from “all walks of life” to foster.
“We need foster carers for children of all ages and backgrounds, including groups of brothers and sisters, children with disabilities and older children and teenagers,” Duffy said.
Councillor Fiona Venner, Leeds City Council’s Executive Member for Adult and Children’s Social Care and Health Partnerships, commented the collaboration is in response to an “urgent need” for more foster carers in the region.
“There is no typical foster carer or family and we welcome applications from people of all backgrounds. Whether you’re single, married, have your own children or not, own your home or rent, and whatever your ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation, you can help local children have a better future in life.”
To find out more visit: https://foster4yourcouncil.org/
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