Childminders could be employed by councils as stand-in foster carers, under new proposals from independent auditors PricewaterhouseCoopers.
Earlier this year, the Department for Education and Skills commissioned PwC to undertake independent research into four children’s services markets, including children’s homes and fostering provision.
The findings, published this week, reveal a lack of understanding about what makes for a successful placement for children in care, and a need to improve the level of trust between councils and private providers.
Predicting that demand for foster care placements will continue to grow as demand for children’s home placements continues to decline, the report suggests that councils consider childminder resources “to boost foster carer support”.
“Childminders could become registered ‘respite foster carers’, paid to deliver respite services to foster carers if they wanted,” it recommends. “Additional income, particularly at weekends, would help support the childminding sector.”
The other markets studied were positive activities for young people, child care, and parental and family support services. The overall findings paint a picture of failure, both in terms of councils meeting children’s, young people’s and parents’ needs and in terms of them achieving value for money.
PwC suggests that encouraging the development of regional commissioning and rationalising central government funding streams could help improve the development of these markets.
“The fragmentation of funding and its time-limited nature makes strategic planning difficult, and raises questions over whether the service can be sustained in the long-term,” the report explains. “This provides difficulties for both commissioners and providers in how they distribute and access funding, as well as in long-term planning.”