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BASW England response to National Fostering Stocktake: call for evidence

BASW England previously submitted evidence to the House of Commons Education Committee inquiry on Fostering in November 2016. We have included a lot of information from this submission in our response. We also invited our members to comment directly on the National Fostering Stocktake consultation and have integrated their comments into this response.

We are disappointed that the list of questions aimed at acquiring information about the national picture of fostering makes no reference to the important role the social work service plays in fostering.Of particular importance are the following essential social work services:

• The social work service provided to the ‘child in need’ of a fostering placement or actually placed with a foster family or in a ‘staying put’ arrangement after reaching the age of 18 – this provision comes directly from local authorities (or in a small number of cases for which the LA is accountable although the service may be provided by a Trust). This service is not directly inspected by Ofsted but is part of the overall inspection of local authority child and family social work services.

• The social work service that recruits, trains, monitors and supports foster carers (including kinship carers or non-kinship carers) providing a ‘task-focused’ or ‘family for life’ type placement for one or more children from the same or a different family and/or local authority. The foster carers may be employed directly by local authorities or by a trust accountable to a local authority, in which case, since 2013, they are not directly inspected by Ofsted other than as a part of the local authority’s child and family service). Alternatively, they may be employed by a charitable sector fostering provider or by a for-profit foster care provider. The work carried out by these social workers is directly inspected by Ofsted if they are not employed by the local authority.

• If a child is placed with foster carers recruited and supported by an independent fostering agency, the work of the local authority commissioning team members can be crucial, especially if children from different local authorities need to be matched with particular foster families. Not all those involved with commissioning arrangements are social workers, but it is essential that there is social work input and clear channels of communication to ensure that the needs of each child are met by the commissioning and procurement arrangements. This requires ensuring that there is adequate time for professional discussions between the child’s social worker and the foster care support social worker, and systems for resolving any differences of view.