The Fostering Stocktake and Allegtions

Fostering Stocktake and Allegation

The Fostering Stocktake has been published this week and immediately drawn criticism from across the Fostering Community, but whats the big deal

By John Collier

This week has seen the publication of the report on the Fostering Stocktake that was conducted for England and Wales and I think it’s fair to say that it has dropped a bombshell on the whole of the fostering community. Only a couple of months ago in Dec 2017 we saw the publication of a report from the Education Select Committee that recognised the true state of Fostering and made some very progressive recommendation that would have had a profound impact up on the way that Foster Carers are employed and treated in the workplace.

So, why is this new report so bad? Well, it contradicts almost everything the Select Committee recommended and goes even further to suggest that even Independent Reviewing Officers and Fostering Panels should be scrapped, essentially removing any scrutiny of service providers and foster placements. It then goes on the recommend that Local Authorities should agree long term contracts with Independent Fostering Agencies (IFA’s) or in other word, remove any regulation and scrutiny and then privatise Fostering Services.

This report is so profoundly damaging and out of touch that a single blog could never cover every aspect of it, so for this article I will concentrate on aspect of the report that demonstrates the ridiculousness of its conclusions. The risk to foster carers form an allegation. The report makes this assertion

“Biehal’s66 research concluded that between one-fifth and one-quarter of allegations are confirmed as involving an act that could be defined as abuse or neglect. This means that in about 1,800 cases a year, carers are drawn into investigative processes, which can be lengthy and can sometimes necessitate the removal of the foster child, but where the allegation was without merit. Such cases will, inevitably, be distressing. But it is important to remember that 1,800 or so cases a year represents just one allegation each month for every 350 children in foster care. This does not support suggestions that the number of unproven allegations is at crisis levels, as was sometimes suggested to us. Nor are foster carers uniquely vulnerable to allegations, as suggested to us by the newly formed Foster Care Workers Union. Similar risks are an unfortunate fact of life for many individuals employed in caring or similar roles, including teachers, nurses and social workers.”

The paragraph above somehow manages to playdown the fact that 1,800 unsubstantiated allegations are levied against Foster Carers every year and in some of those cases the Foster Children and sometime the carers own children are removed in a guilty before innocent procedure. It should also be pointed out that with an approximate 70,000 children in foster care at any given time, one in 350 is not an acceptable level of attrition for Foster Carers to be exposed to. The real killer in this paragraph is how it make a comparison with other ‘Similar Roles’ like teaching, nursing and social workers. Well I don’t know any of those who care for the most vulnerable young people, 24/7 in their own homes but I do appreciate being recognised as ‘Employed’ like others in the care sector. So, thank you for that Sir Martin Narey and Mark Owers.

The naivety of this report is further demonstrated by the lack of understanding around the issue of safeguarding not only for the children in care but also for the Foster Carers who are, lets face it, at the sharp end of the stick when it comes to allegations.

“Department for Education guidance and regulations are silent on physical affection and such silence – which is disappointing – must encourage the view that physical affection is considered inappropriate. Carers should be in no doubt that, unless it is unwelcome to the child, they should not curb the natural instinct to demonstrate personal and physical warmth. We urge the Department for Education to make that clear in future guidance”

OK Sir Martin, we are supposed to ignore all our safeguarding training and put ourselves in a situation where, if or when an allegation comes we will be in even greater peril than before. This recommendation couldn’t be more idiotic or naïve, and only goes to demonstrate the complete lack of understanding of what foster care is about. Yes of course we show warmth and affection, we are Foster Carers, we wouldn’t do this job if we weren’t warm and caring people, but the reason the Department of Education is silent on this matter is because it doesn’t want to create an environment where allegations are more common, more difficult to defend and where the department are accused of giving bad advice and creating the problem.

This article only tackles one small section of what is a 125 page document, but the tone of this report is naive, dismissive, patronising and ideologically bias throughout, it is clearly designed to undermine the progress made by the Foster Care Workers Union in gaining recognition for Foster Carer Workers and exposing the dreadful culture that exists in the fostering landscape.