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BASW calls for proper regulation of private fostering arrangements

BASW has called for the proper regulation of all private fostering arrangements in the wake of the convictions of Eric Bikubi and Magalie Bamu for the murder of 15-year-old Kristy Bamu, after the Old Bailey heard accounts of the pair believing their victim was possessed by evil spirits.

Speaking on BBC’s Newsnight last night BASW chief executive Hilton Dawson said that although the case centred only on a short-term fostering arrangement – Kristy Banu and his two siblings were only supposed to be in the UK for Christmas – it highlighted the thousands of private fostering arrangements that currently take place without the knowledge of the authorities.

The programme suggested that while many children come to the UK from overseas countries and thrive while living in private fostering arrangements, many are sent to live with extended families and ‘become commodities, moved across borders and exploited’.

Commenting on suggestions that 10,000 children could be living in unregulated private fostering arrangements, Mr Dawson told the programme: “We have no idea how many children are subject to private fostering arrangements – it could easily be 20,000 children who have no protection and who aren’t living with their parents. They may be living in good circumstances but some of them may be living in disastrous ones.

“I have no idea why successive governments haven’t brought in a simple registration system where one agency would have a particular role to make sure people who were legitimately interested in private fostering are registered and given training and support for what is a very important job.

“Political will is all that is lacking. It wouldn’t take much investment – what is needed is a focus and a determination to protect these children.”

New regulations introduced in 2005 required private fosterers to register with local authorities but current evidence suggests that in many cases this is not happening. Official figures show that there are 1,500 private fostering arrangements in England, 1,046 in Scotland, 68 in Wales and just six in Northern Ireland. Even based on the broad estimate that there are at least 10,000 such arrangements in the UK, this would mean three quarters of privately fostered children remain outside of child protection safeguards.

The private fostering of children from overseas came to public prominence following the case of Victoria Climbié, who was beaten and starved to death in 2000. A court hearing and a subsequent inquiry into the systemic problems that failed to prevent her death heard that she came to the UK with her great aunt using false papers, and that she did not go to school and was exploited for benefit fraud.

The pair convicted of Kristy Bamu’s murder, his older sister Magalie Bamu and her partner Eric Bikubi were also privately fostered as children. Magalie told the court about the abuse she suffered during her own placement as a child.

Bikubi and Bamu, both 28, killed Kristy Bamu in their east London flat after violently abusing him, using an array of weapons including pliers and a hammer, for several days because they believed he was possessed by evil spirits.

On Christmas Day 2010, a weakened Kristy drowned in a bath where Bikubi had sought to wash away the spirits.