The Fostering Network has called on the government to overhaul the way allegations against foster carers are handled after a new survey revealed that many are left without support or payment for long periods of time while investigations are carried out.
The survey of more than 1,000 foster carers revealed that more than a third had experienced an allegation. Over half of these related to physical abuse, one in six to standards of care, and one in six to sexual abuse.
A third of the foster carers had some or all of their foster care children removed while allegations were being investigated. And almost half of these received no payment or fees over this period.
Despite revised Working Together guidance published earlier this year stating that 90 per cent of cases should be resolved within three months, only half of investigations met this deadline.
And despite national minimum standards on fostering stating that all foster carers must be entitled to receive independent support, 61 per cent of foster carers involved in allegations said they were not offered this.
The Fostering Network said the results confirmed the fundamental problems that existed with the way allegations were dealt with by many children’s services and fostering services.
“While it is crucial that all allegations are fully investigated, experience shows that the majority are unsubstantiated,” said chief executive Robert Tapsfield. “If fostering services want fostering families to feel able to continue with fostering after an investigation in completed, they must offer them proper financial and practical support during that time and must speed up their investigations.”
Tapsfield said the findings added weight to the charity’s campaign to ensure foster carers continue to be paid during the allegation process, allegations are carried out to strict timescales, and carers have access to an independent appeal mechanism.
“The government missed an opportunity to tackle the way in which allegations are handled through the green paper last week,” he added. “We will take advantage of the current consultation process to urge them to remedy this omission.”