Norman Lamb, the Liberal Democrat MP for North Norfolk, has written to the Chair of the Education Select Committee in support of the Norfolk Foster Care Association’s proposals for reforming the fostering system.
In October, the Committee launched a new inquiry into fostering in England, looking at a range of issues including the adequacy of current recognition and support given to foster carers, challenges in recruitment and retention, and the stability of foster care placements for looked-after children.
In its submission to the inquiry, the Norfolk Foster Care Association (NFCA) has highlighted a range of serious concerns about the fostering system. These include, but are not limited to:
- inadequate support for foster carers from local authorities;
- frequent and unnecessary removal of children from their established foster placements;
- a lack of legal protections for foster carers who blow the whistle on bad practice; and
- a failure to ensure that allegations or complaints about foster carers are investigated fairly.
The NFCA also questioned the fairness and legality of Norfolk County Council’s implementation of the ‘Staying Put’ initiative. The scheme supports young people to remain with their foster families beyond their 18th birthday, but a cap on funding in Norfolk currently discriminates against young people wishing to remain with ‘Level 5’ foster carers, who receive the highest pay rates because of their specialist knowledge and experience.
The NFCA has put forward a set of recommendations to improve the fostering system so that it better supports foster carers and the vulnerable young people who depend on them. Key recommendations include:
- better support for foster care associations from local councils;
- statutory whistleblowing protections for foster carers;
- new standards to ensure that investigations into foster carers are conducted fairly;
- more robust processes for removing children from their foster placements; and
- a Central Register to overcome recruitment challenges and allow foster carers to relocate more easily to other parts of the country.
In a letter to the Education Committee chair Neil Carmichael MP, Norman Lamb, a long-time campaigner for better rights for foster carers, endorsed the NCFA’s proposals for strengthening the system. He has also called for representatives from the NCFA to be invited to give spoken evidence to the inquiry at future meetings.
Commenting, Norman Lamb said:
“Foster carers play a hugely valuable role in caring for society’s most vulnerable children, and it’s a great scandal that they are so often denied the support, rights and protections they deserve. This ultimately has a damaging effect on the wellbeing of looked-after children who, above all else, are in need of safety and stability.
“This inquiry is a timely opportunity to shine a light on some of the most egregious failings in the system and provide a catalyst for change. I am very pleased to support the NFCA’s involvement in the process, and hope that the Education Committee will take its important recommendations on board.”