Finding people to consider Fostering is tough to say the least. Efforts are being made up and down the country by local authorities: the same is true for an independent fostering agency like Rainbow who provide fostering services. So the background ‘mood music’ is important, very important: not helpful, then, to hear over national radio that a group of Foster Carers have been forced to form their own trade union. This is the first trade union for foster carers: it’s a consequence of a widespread feeling of disillusionment and mistrust amongst many carers. There are initiatives under way looking at the current model for delivering of fostering services. But clearly, time is beginning to run out in the minds of many foster carers, who are prepared to openly express their dissatisfaction. And their frustrations have now won the support of the shadow chancellor, John McDonnell. He has supported the recent move to form a trade union, taken at a meeting sixty current and former carers recently held in Parliament. And for good measure, the Department for Education confirmed it is launching a fundamental review of fostering across the country. At the heart of this issue is the feeling carers have that they are not regarded – and therefore not treated – as professionals. This can be understood when they are not classed as employees, or workers and do not have a contract of employment. This means that they do not qualify for holiday pay, sick pay or the national minimum wage. As one foster carer said, “I don’t know anyone else who works and doesn’t get a pension, sick pay, holiday pay, or recognition as a professional.”
Fostering services need to be highly valued
Other issues of concern were raised at the meeting: one in particular; the lack of due process, meaning that a child can be removed from care without the foster carer involved having any input.
This also applies to the way a local authority can decide to de-register a foster carer allowing them little or no redress. This can make it very difficult to get registered with another local authority or independent fostering agency. The Department for Education responded by saying that ‘foster carers whose approval is terminated or terms of approval are amended, have the right to a review by the independent review mechanism’.
John McDonnell, the Shadow Chancellor was present at the meeting: “Foster caring is an essential role in our society, and these foster carers carry a burden for the rest of our community so they should be properly recognised. “They have never really been recognised and had legal rights. They should have security of their employment and be properly paid as well, and they should have the support that they need.” These are fine words, but foster carers have not suddenly arrived in the position they find themselves. And governments of both political hues have been in power whilst the nation’s carers have slowly become disillusioned.
It seems things are slightly better where carers work for an independent fostering agency. This is probably due to the fact that agencies have to work very hard to find and then make a considerable investment training people to become carers – and not all make the grade. The underlying problem is one of status: whilst carers exist in a twilight world without a proper contract of employment and the usual rights and protections that implies, they will not feel their role and contribution is truly valued. And this is not always contingent upon actual sums paid. It is a matter of perception and the right signals being sent by the government. Foster care simply cannot be done on the cheap, and where the system is failing, the scale of costly interventions later on seems almost without limit. Much work is being done currently on the ‘nuts and bolts’ of providing foster care. It may be that the entire service delivery model changes soon, but whatever system is brought in, the first essential move is to make sure foster carers are able to regard themselves in a completely new light. We live in an age of branding: we need, as a society to ‘rebrand’ foster care. Values need to be ascribed that we all recognise and buy into. When one thinks of the qualities needed to be a great carer – emotional strength, resilience, love, patience, tolerance – the list goes on…it is a matter of some astonishment that carers do not feel lauded.
More information about trade unions at https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/articles/introduction-trade-unions
At Rainbow Fostering we work tirelessly and with imagination to make our foster carers feel valued. But we know that across wider society, foster caring must be presented as a high value occupation which can make the country we all share a better place to be. And we work hard to recruit, so pay great attention to fostering recommendations from our carers. For this reason, we operate our incentive scheme which pays £500 to anyone recommending a friend to become a foster carer. The money will be paid to you once that person has been approved and had their first foster child placed with them.
Additionally, any existing foster carer who fosters with another organisation, but wants to transfer over to Rainbow Fostering Services will also qualify for a bonus under our new scheme. They will receive a £2000 bonus after approval, for carers who have children already placed with them on a long-term basis and £500 for any foster carers who do not have children placed with them.
Please call our fostering recruitment team on 0208 427 3355 to find out more information.
It is slightly over a year since we launched our weekly fostering blog. There are just so many issues related to fostering children and fostering services in general. People who are caring for children with complex needs, or fostering youngsters with disabilities will have seen pieces commenting on these specialist areas. Foster carers, and not just foster carers have responded extremely positively to our blogs – so a big “Thank you” once again for all your fostering feedback.
If you have a spare bedroom and want to play a big part in giving a child a future, please contact us. With over 9,000 new foster carers needed this year, there is an urgent need for dedicated people to come forward. Individuals who have, or are currently working professionally with children offer invaluable experience for fostering. But for all with an interest in contributing to the urgent need for foster carers, we provide outstanding training and support. So in the words of the famous maxim “Your country needs you” – and it clearly does – we look forward to hearing from you.
And the good news at the end of this fostering rainbow….we have had a great response from a leading brand with regard to working with us to provide training and apprenticeship opportunities for some of our older children.
We are constantly striving to extend our fostering services.
The initial discussions have been extremely promising so we hope to have some more information very soon.
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