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Steps to improve our foster care system

An independent review has made 36 recommendations for government, local authorities and independent fostering agencies to help improve the fostering system for both children and foster carers.

Commissioned by the Department for Education and conducted by Sir Martin Narey and Mark Owers, it looked at the purpose of foster care and what it means to those closely involved in the system.

Key recommendations to improve foster care

While the report went into detail, the key recommendations for improvement included: ensuring foster carers are supported and included in decision-making; improving foster placement commissioning, and matching; and delivering greater stability and permanence for children and young people in foster care.

The review is part of the government’s drive to ensure that children living in foster care have access to a stable and loving environment and foster carers get the support they need. This includes the announcement in December that the government will extend its 30-hour childcare offer to foster carers. This should make more support workers available for foster carers in challenging situations, connecting them with services like AMHPs where necessary and relieving the burden on the social work system by reducing crises.

Addressing the needs of children

Nadhim Zahawi, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Children and Families, said the report was “first and foremost” about identifying and addressing the needs of children in foster care.

“We will carefully consider the review’s recommendations, alongside those from the Education Select Committee, over the coming months to determine how they can help us to make sustainable improvements to the fostering system and to the outcomes for looked after children,” he said.

The Government’s response to the report and the recommendations will set out the future programme of work for the fostering system.

For the review authors drew on evidence from the public alongside meetings with local authorities, independent fostering agencies, representative organisations, academics, foster carers and children and young people. It also included a survey of the views and experiences of children in foster care, conducted by the Children’s Commissioner Anne Longfield.

Fostering can be more effective

Review co-author Sir Martin Narey acknowledged the “remarkable contribution” foster career make to the lives of children often damaged by neglect and that contribution needs to be recognised.

“But fostering can be made even more effective, and could make an even greater contribution to the welfare to some of the country’s most disadvantaged children,” he added. “Foster carers must be allowed much greater authority in making decisions about the children in their care and they need to be liberated to offer the physical affection which is a vital and necessary part of most children’s healthy upbringing. “We make 36 recommendations and if all were to be implemented, as I hope they will be, then local authorities will have foster carers who are better motivated and better appreciated.”

He also said that local authorities could make significant financial savings through obtaining better deals independent fostering providers and that commissioning in the area was “too often inadequate.
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