National IRO Manager Partnership
Submission to the national fostering stocktake call for evidence
The National IRO Managers Partnership (NIROMP) welcomes the national fostering stocktake.
We believe that children and young people should have a strong voice in decision making around their care, and they should have a voice in influencing national strategy as part of the fostering stocktake. We also believe that more emphasis should be given to the views of care experienced adults in shaping policy matters.
We are clear that there should be no hierarchy of care for children. To this end we are pleased to know that the review is taking a broad focus – recognising the value of all forms of permanence in the context of the care system as a whole.
We recognise that a significant number of children in care return home. We believe that any care strategy should reflect the needs of all children in care, wherever they live.
We hope the fostering stocktake will also consider the high numbers of children entering care and how local authorities are responding to young people on the edge of care. We believe there is a need for more respite care and for more flexible care to support families. We would like to see more use of the provisions contained in section 17(6) of the Children Act 1989, concerning the use of short break care. We would like to see this used where appropriate to avoid the label and administrative requirements of a child attaining Looked After status.
A more strategic, coordinated recruitment campaign at national level is needed to address the shortage of foster carers. Any recruitment campaign should address the profile of children in care, for example, with emphasis given to the need for more foster carers for older children, sibling groups and children with additional needs.
Local authorities and partners face particular challenges in areas where there is a high proportion of children in care (both their own and those who have been placed out of area by other local authorities). Recruitment needs to address these pressures.
Staying Put is a positive policy, though it does add to capacity issues within the system. We would therefore urge the reviewers to consider Staying Put as part of the stocktake. Our members would also like to see more consideration to the possible benefits of shared lives schemes such as those provided by the UK network of shared lives and homeshare. Supported lodging also has a role to play in supporting vulnerable young people who are leaving care.
Foster carers need to offer good quality optimal parenting and advocacy for the children they care for. They need structured training such as therapeutic parenting courses.
Our members would welcome the introduction of quality standards for foster care, as has happened for the residential care workforce via the Children’s Homes Regulations.
Availability of flexible support for foster carers is key to stability of children’s care placements. Our members would like to see development of a Foster Carer Support Fund – similar to the Adoption Support Fund that many adoptive families have benefited from.
Retention of carers is an issue. Foster carers need good, regular supervision and flexible out of hours support alongside flexible support from health, schools, colleges and other partners.
Foster carers are sometimes left out of discussions about their child’s progress and outcomes – an issue that we would like to see addressed as part of this stocktake.
We would like to see consideration given to the portability of foster carer approval – to bring foster care approval in line with arrangements for adopter approval and allowing the appropriate checks such as references and DBS checks to be portable. Such increased flexibility might help to retain more foster carers.
The basic requirements of therapeutic placement could be better defined and evaluated to help ensure children’s needs are met and that available provision is good value for money.
Submitted October 2017.