One in four local authorities have made “very little progress” improving protection of children who are privately fostered, Ofsted’s first inspection of services has found.
Authorities were at “varying stages” in their monitoring of private fostering, where children are cared for by someone who is not their parent or close relative for 28 consecutive days or more.
The inspection from 2007-8 trailed today also found uneven progress in authorities’ assessments and a lack of information about how many children were privately fostered, despite duties on agencies and carers to notify authorities.
Although public awareness of private fostering had risen, many staff lacked understanding of their duties and authorities were failing to provide enough resources.
Learn from good practice
Ofsted’s chief inspector, Christine Gilbert, called the findings “disappointing”. She told a conference organised by the British Association of Fostering and Adoption today: “The number of inadequate authorities continues to be far too high. [We] know that this group of children have not received the protection they deserve and their needs have been neglected for too long.”
Gilbert added that she wanted authorities to learn from good practice in other areas, including where elected members were involved in promoting effective provision and senior managers were aware of the issue.
After the death of Victoria Climbié, the government increased local authorities’ duties to monitor private fostering through the Children Act 2004. Since July 2005, councils have had to promote the duty to notify, which has led to a steady rise in reporting.
There were 1,250 children reported as being fostered privately in England on 31 March 2007, compared with 980 a year earlier.