The government has rejected a call to legislate within a year for a scheme to register private foster carers.
Shadow children’s minister Tim Loughton pressed for the measure to be included in the Children and Young Persons Bill, saying the system was failing to protect children.
Currently, private foster carers are required to notify councils of any arrangements. After the death of Victoria Climbié the government increased the monitoring through the Children Act 2004 and, since July 2005, councils have had to promote the duty to notify.
Initially, the government gave the system until 2008 before deciding whether a registration scheme was necessary. But the Children and Young Persons Bill would extend this deadline until 2011.
In a House of Commons debate on the Children and Young Persons Bill this week, Loughton urged the government to legislate within a year for a registration scheme. He said he was “at a loss to see how the notification scheme can have been deemed a success”.
He cited the latest figures from March last year showing that 1,250 children were reported as being cared for and living in private fostering arrangements in England, and 1,010 private fostering arrangements ended during the previous year.
Loughton told MPs: “We are still well short of the 10,000 private fostering arrangements that are estimated to exist. We still do not know who is involved in those arrangements.”
Junior children’s minister Kevin Brennan replied that the government had not “abandoned” the possibility of a registration scheme, but claimed there was not enough evidence “to justify the move right now”.
He said local authorities had been “working hard to raise awareness of the notification requirements” and that progress had been made over the past three years. Brennan also highlighted that inspections of councils’ private fostering services had begun at the end of 2006.
Brennan added: “We do not necessarily want to insist on a registration scheme, and yet we have not abandoned it. We want to give the changes that have been made the correct amount of time so that we can collect the evidence that is necessary to make that judgement.”
Loughton criticised Brennan’s “weak” response and said he would continue to press for the measure.
The bill continues its passage through parliament.