Norman Lamb, MP for North Norfolk, has called on the Government to extend the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998, which provides legal protection for whistleblowers, to cover foster carers.
The call has been made during Foster Care Fortnight 2016 (16th-29th May), the UK’s biggest annual campaign to showcase the commitment, passion and dedication of foster carers and to highlight the need for more than 9,000 new foster families in the next 12 months.
The Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 (PIDA) protects workers from detrimental treatment or victimisation from their employer if, in the public interest, they speak out against wrongdoing or malpractice.
However, the Act does not currently apply to foster carers – meaning that foster carers are in an extremely vulnerable position if they choose to disclose information about alleged wrongdoing such as criminal offences, illegal activity, or threats to the health and safety of a child. Foster carers are therefore less likely to have the confidence to blow the whistle, potentially placing children at continued risk.
In 2013, the Whistleblowing Commission chaired by the Rt. Hon. Sir Anthony Hooper recommended that PIDA is extended to cover foster carers to address this. Norman Lamb has now tabled a parliamentary motion calling on the Government to act on this recommendation by bringing forward proposals to extend the scope of the Act.
He has also written to the Chief Executive of the Fostering Network, which is the UK’s leading fostering charity, inviting them to support the motion.
Norman Lamb said: “I am very happy to raise this important issue in Parliament during Foster Care Fortnight. Too often foster carers are left marginalised and voiceless. The Queen’s Speech last week promised new legislation to improve the adoption system, but it was conspicuously silent on the invaluable role of foster carers who give a loving home to thousands of children in need.
“The wellbeing and safety of children will continue to be under threat if the Government does not address this legal anomaly and lack of rights for foster carers with regard to whistleblowing. Foster carers must be afforded the same protections that other carers enjoy. That was the clear recommendation of the Whistleblowing Commission, and I hope that the Government takes steps to implement this sooner rather than later.”
The motion has been welcomed by the Norfolk Foster Care Association. Ray Bewry, from the NFCA, said: “We are highly encouraged by Mr Lamb’s initiative coming in this Foster Care Fortnight. The success of Mr Lamb’s motion will, we believe, give Foster Carers the courage to blow the whistle, giving them the same protection afforded by PIDA to all other members of the Care Team.”
Full text of the Parliamentary Motion:
EDM 53: FOSTER CARERS AND THE PUBLIC INTEREST DISCLOSURE ACT
That this House notes that the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 (PIDA) does not cover foster carers; further notes that such carers are therefore in a vulnerable position if they choose to speak out about alleged wrongdoing or poor practice; expresses concern that this may act as a disincentive to foster carers exposing wrongdoing or poor practice, thereby potentially putting vulnerable children at continued risk; notes that the Whistleblowing Commission chaired by the right hon. Sir Anthony Hooper recommended that the Government uses the powers set out in section 20 of the Enterprise Regulatory Reform Act 2013 to extend PIDA to cover foster carers; and therefore calls on the Government to bring forward proposals to extend the scope of that Act accordingly.