Children’s minister Tim Loughton was today forced to defend his decision not to make the government’s new Foster Carers Charter compulsory for all local authorities.
Addressing an audience of foster carers and leaders at an event to launch the charter today, Loughton said he was confident that all local authorities in England would “adopt and promote” the charter to ensure it becomes a “living document”.
The charter sets guidelines on how local authorities, social workers and foster carers should work together in the future.
However, foster carers questioned why signing up to the charter had not been made compulsory. Dean Trotter, a foster carer, told Loughton: “Although I welcome the charter, I have to question why you have not made it obligatory? I think you’ve missed something.”
Loughton defended his decision, telling foster carers: “The charter does not replace existing guidance, but is a statement of principles. You can’t really make that a mandatory instruction. I don’t want to be prescriptive, I want to help foster carers be innovative and have flexibility. I want local authorities to sign up to it and value it because they think it is good and worthwhile, not because they have to.”
But Trotter questioned whether local authorities would sign up, without any mandatory instruction. He said: “These are guiding principles and I think councils should have been forced to adopt this.”
But Loughton assured foster carers that he would monitor local authority take-up. “I will have a map on the wall of my office and I will mark it when a local authority signs up,” he said, promising to chase any council that does not sign up. “I will research which, if any, local authorities do not sign up and I will want to know their reasons.”
Loughton also assured care leavers that he would ensure the charter was making a difference to children in care by holding events where foster carers and children in care can report back about their experiences. These events would be held in six to nine months, he said.
One foster carer, who did not wish to be named, told Community Care: “I often feel that, as foster carers, we’re not taken seriously enough by local or central government. So this charter really is a good thing. But it’s just all words at the moment. I have little confidence that it will be taken seriously by all local authorities and social workers.”
Another foster carer, writing on Twitter, said: “[Local authorities] signing up is one thing, investing time, energy, resources and genuine commitment is quite another. Does [Loughton] have a map for that?”
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