First Report of Session 2017–19
Foster care is an invaluable part of the care system, providing thousands of children and young people with safe, loving and stable homes and family environments. Yet the foster care system in England is currently under pressure: the number of children living in care is increasing, as is the number living in foster care; foster carers have raised serious concerns over their working conditions, and the adequacy of the support they receive; and the roles and relationships of different providers of foster care have been called into question.
At the beginning of the 2017 Parliament, we decided to continue our predecessor Committee’s inquiry into fostering, which could not be completed before the General Election. In our report, we emphasise the importance of valuing the young people in foster care, foster carers, and the foster care system itself. We also feel that it is important that foster care is considered in the context of the wider children’s care landscape. We believe that the Government should conduct a fundamental review of the whole care system to address wider issues and ensuring that the care system is fulfilling its purpose.
Valuing young people
For too many children and young people, their experience of care is that of something which is done to them, not with them. While legislation and Government guidelines encourage placement stability and involvement of young people in decision-making about their care, and outline a young person’s entitlement to sibling contact and advocacy services, application of these guidelines is currently lacking. There must be consistency of practice, so that all young people are able to benefit from an appropriate and positive experience of foster care.
Valuing foster carers
Foster carers do not always receive the respect and recognition they deserve. They perform a remarkable and invaluable service for thousands of young people. The Government must do more to support and value foster carers. We call upon the Government to consult on the establishment of a national college for foster carers, which would work to give carers the support they need, and the recognition they deserve.
The Government needs to do more to value foster care. This means more resources and support. The Department for Education should initiate a national recruitment and awareness campaign to improve capacity in the system. It must also support local authorities and foster care providers in piloting new ways of working, especially through more early intervention and prevention.