2018 is already shaping up to be a momentous year in fostering.
We have a new Minister for Education - Damian Hinds.
We have a new Parliamentary Under-secretary of State for Children - Nadhim Zahawi.
We have the Parliamentary Select committee on Fostering Report published.
...And the much anticipated Sir Martin Narey ‘Stocktake’ of fostering report has also been published.
All this, and it’s still only March! Inevitably, with new Ministers, and two influential reports published based on extensive research into our industry, we can assume that change is afoot!
I greatly urge all of you to read both reports:
Between these two reports there are many recommendations (36 in Narey’s report alone!). I have met with civil servants within the Department for Education - and as I understand it, the department will select several recommendations to pursue; focus groups will be formed to assess the viability of those chosen recommendations; and the better ideas will be progressed through relevant legislation or guidance to ultimately change the way we work.
Within this blog, I will take a stab at analysing Sir Martin and Mark Owers’ approach to the investigation and work. And then focus on one area that was common to both reports.
I have a fear that Sir Martin’s report will go on to become the most misquoted report in the history of reports. The reason for this fear is due to the style the report was written in:
If I said, “Would you pay much attention to Sir Martin’s report if you knew that he was smoking dope the whole time he conducted his investigation?” I can find no evidence to suggest that Sir Martin was anything but sober during his work on this report.
However, I have now planted the idea in your head, and you now have the ability to quote me accurately and yet represent exactly the opposite of what I intended you to understand.
Now take a direct quote from the report:
“It was sometimes suggested that the quality of care provided by local authority placements was higher than that provided by IFAs.” the next line reads: “We saw no evidence of that”
Imagine a headline in the Guardian that reads: “Narey suggests that children receive better care in LA families than in the independent sector”, entirely ignoring the second line. This has happened to Sir Martin before - and so you can see where my fears come from.
This is why I urge you all to read what was actually written, and not what Community Care or the Guardian or another fostering provider decides are the important headlines. Some of what is contained in these reports will come to pass, and will fundamentally change the world of foster care in the UK.
Until we get an idea of which recommendations start to gain traction it would be pointless to spend time offering responses to each and every point. If some recommendations get progressed, many others will become moot. So I will not address the legal issues of the commissioning strategy proposed that may be in contravention of Anti-Trust regulations (LA price fixing). I will not address the lack of evidence supporting the rhetoric of ‘Public Sector Good-Private Sector Bad’. Furthermore, I will not address the very positive evidence that suggests that the Independent Sector are enabling children to live in families who would otherwise be languishing in children’s homes and secure units. These are topics that deserve a lot more attention and will be subjects of forthcoming blogs in their own right.
There is one recommendation that is common to both reports -- and that is the creation of a National Register of Foster Parents. Many of you know that this is something I have been working on for almost fifteen years. In fact, I have presented the idea to the DfE on multiple occasions over the years. I believe that if this Register is created well, it will have an enormously beneficial effect on children in care and fostering families. I would go as far as to say that it will bring as much benefit as the innovation of the Independent Fostering sector, some thirty years ago. You will hear much resistance to this idea: The Association of Directors of Children’s Services have already voiced their vehement opposition to this idea, and there are many in the Independent Sector who feel just as strongly opposed. Now, an idea such as this, that will radically change the way we work, will be unsettling to many in our industry. Change is hard. But I am yet to hear an argument against the Register that contains anything other than self-interest. All of the benefits, are direct benefits to children, and are plainly obvious. I am very keen to ensure that the protectionist, small minded opposition to the Register will be drowned out by 55,000 loud voices in favour of the project. I propose that if you oppose the Register and therefore are against improving standards for children in care, then you should leave the industry immediately.
I am just now embarking on a series of meetings with the people who can make this happen, and hope to give you positive updates as this important year in fostering starts to gain momentum.
This is the second in a series of blogs on the various changes impacting our work. If you'd like to follow the whole train of thought, click HERE to read part one, 'What would Abraham Lincoln think?' by Jane Keenan.
Image credit: flickr
Last modified on Tuesday, 13 March 2018 15:30