Children’s minister Tim Loughton has ordered all local authorities to free foster carers from “over-zealous restrictions and bureaucracy”.
He has also launched a consultation on proposed changes to regulations governing fostering and children’s homes, including a plan to reduce the size of fostering and adoption panels, to reduce delays in placements, streamline bureaucracy and remove overly prescriptive regulations.
Loughton expressed concern over the restrictions imposed on foster carers by some councils, and what he termed “persistent myths” that prevented many from making day-to-day decisions about the children they care for.
It follows an interview on the Tonight television programme in which he asked to hear about overly bureaucratic councils. He has been overwhelmed with responses.
Loughton said that small but essential matters, such as whether foster carers needed to seek permission before they could take children for haircuts, should be agreed with local authorities at the outset.
In a letter to councils, Loughton wrote: “Foster carers should not have to keep seeking permission from several layers of bureaucracy.” Agreements for sleepovers and family holidays, for example, should be struck in advance.
“The default position should be that foster children should be treated to as regular a home life as possible, as if they were children with their own birth parents,” the minister added. “Most local authorities are doing an excellent job in difficult circumstances, but in some areas there is room for improvement.
“I urge local authorities to re-examine their processes and employ common sense about how to manage relationships with foster families and children’s parents.”
The Fostering Network heard regularly from foster carers whose jobs were being made more difficult and from young people who were missing out on life experiences as a result of uncertainty, delay and bureaucracy, its chief executive, Robert Tapsfield, said.
“Foster carers look after fostered children in their own homes, as part of their own families, and must be trusted, encouraged and supported to make everyday decisions on their behalf,” he said.
The Fostering Network is developing a new toolkit to help councils improve the way they delegate decision making to foster carers.
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