Published date: 24 February 2018 |Please read NIROMP’s full response to the review of Fostering in England: NIROMP briefing & comment on – Fostering in England – February 2018
This briefing considers ‘Foster Care in England’, a report of the independent review of foster care by Sir Martin Narey and Mark Owers’. The report was commissioned and published by the Department for Education on 6 February 2018.
The report summarises its findings and sets out 36 recommendations to improve the fostering system for children and foster carers. It should be read in conjunction with the Education Select Committee Report on foster care published December 2017.
Nadhim Zahawi MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Children and Families, will consider both reports findings.
This important review will culminate in government consideration to what can be done to deliver sustainable improvements to the fostering system in England and to the outcomes for looked after children
Comment by the Chair, Sharon Martin on behalf NIROMP
Children in care and care leavers are an important group of children who need more intensive support to have the stable foundation that others take for granted. They have all too frequently been let down by people and systems. The challenges these children face are numerous. They deserve the highest standards of care and legal safeguards.
We welcome this review of fostering and are pleased with Sir Martin Narey and Mark Owers recognition of the positive outcomes achieved by the care system in England and the quality of foster care provided by so many families. We could not agree more that our care system and foster families are a success story. Children’s welfare generally improves over time as a result of the care provided by loving, committed foster carers.
We support a number of the recommendations in the report; however, we do not support the recommendations to remove the IROs. This review of fostering in England must keep the child and the child’s perspective and experience firmly in mind and at the centre of all thinking in its exploration and formulation of the future direction of care services. Regards the future positioning of IROs, I would welcome consideration as to how the service can work more closely with the Office of the Children’s Commissioner and be strengthened within local authorities.
This fostering review also raises important questions for government around the role of the care system and the financial crisis facing public services. Local authorities need the right financial backing and support services in place to help families, to stop problems from escalating and to prevent children from coming into and returning to care. The care and fostering system needs to be properly funded to have the best chance of avoiding
financially driven commissioning decisions, poor retention of over-stretched children’s social workers, and difficulties in effectively implementing ‘Staying Put’ arrangements.
IROs have the privilege of seeing many hundreds of children’s lives transformed because of the compassion, love and care of foster families and a dedicated team of supporters around the child. These people generally epitomise the care we want to see of a compassionate society.
A number of the report’s recommendations are to be welcomed, including giving more support to foster carers, ensuring that they are listened to and enabling foster carers to feel that they are allowed to show comfort and care to children through physical affection like hugs and kisses, if wanted by the child.
Ensuring foster carers have more freedom to make day to day parenting decisions must be better addressed and IROs are well placed to ensure that this is achieved for the benefit of the children and young people within these families. . IROs continue to have an important role in ‘looked after’ children’s lives, they are often the consistent team and are pivotal in ensuring that children know their rights to advocacy and the importance of their voices are heard.
Foster carers have a wonderfully unique relationship with the children in their care and they play a crucial role in bettering their outcomes. They should be valued, supported and listened to.
We hope this review1 results in positive and meaningful change to the lives of children and young people in care. It certainly raises important and familiar issues and some serious challenges about the current arrangements for foster care in England. It offers the sector an important opportunity to contribute to further improvements in the foster care system.
I look forward to NIROMP having a greater role in the consultation and discussion around this report and its recommendations.
Chair National IRO Managers Partnership
Read the full report: NIROMP briefing & comment on – Fostering in England – February 2018