Children’s bill to toughen councils’ role in monitoring private fostering

The government plans to give new duties to local authorities to
monitor and police private fostering as part of next month’s
children’s bill, Community Care has learned.

Children’s minister Margaret Hodge confirmed in a letter to
children’s organisations last week that the government hopes to
issue beefed-up regulations and guidance to councils on private
fostering after the bill is enacted.

Under the proposed duties, local authorities would be required to
check a private fostering arrangement before a child is placed in
it, where advance notice is given. They will also have to “make all
reasonable efforts” to raise awareness of the need to notify
councils of private fostering arrangements.

Regulations will require councils to appoint an officer to monitor
the effectiveness of the council’s notification system. They will
also require the new local safeguarding children boards to
implement the duties on private fostering and monitor interagency

The measures will be funded through the £90m ring-fenced grant
allocated for councils in 2004-5 for improving services to
safeguard children. In her letter, Hodge said the new measures
would increase local authorities’ focus on private fostering and
build on existing best practice.

Despite falling short of demands for a new register of private
foster children and carers, Baaf Adoption and Fostering chief
executive Felicity Collier said the measures would at least place
private fostering higher up the council agenda.

The government will insert a clause into the bill that would allow
it to establish a register without the need for new legislation if
the reforms “do not work as well in practice as we think they

This will be judged on the rate of increase in the number of
notifications of private fostering arrangements and inspection

However, Sir William Utting, who in 1996 reviewed private
fostering, said there was still a need for private fostering to be
regulated in the same way as local authority fostering. “It is
completely unacceptable to have a regulated system for day care but
partly regulated for children living with strangers,” he added.

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