Half of foster carers do not feel their role is valued by social work teams

Research by the Fostering Network also revealed 53% of foster carers said they are not paid for fostering, on top of their allowances

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Foster carers say they are excluded from meetings. Photo: Mode/REX

More than half of foster carers feel they are not treated as valuable members of a child’s life, research by The Fostering Network has found.

Published today, The State of the Nation’s Foster Care, found most foster carers do not feel regularly valued by the social care team who share responsibility for the child.

Being excluded from meetings about a child’s future and having their views disregarded were just some of the examples cited in the survey of 1,082 foster carers.

But individual social workers were praised by foster carers. Nearly three-quarters (73%) of carers said the social work support they received had been very good or good. However, there were also concerns raised about high social work caseloads, which can make practitioners unavailable to children.

The research also revealed that more than half (53%) of foster carers said they are not paid for fostering, on top of their allowances.

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Vicki Swain, campaigns manager for The Fostering Network, argued the report shows the foster carer role needs to become more  professionalised.

“You’ve actually got a highly skilled workforce who have to do therapeutic, emotional, personal care for some of the most damaged children and yet half of them aren’t paid, half of them aren’t even treated as members of the workforce,” she said.

The Fostering Network has called for a new approach, which increases the emphasis on the role of foster carers in social work training. This training to should be mandatory, Swain said, adding there should be a foster care register too to boost foster carers’ status. “We need to have a regulated workforce with minimum qualifications [for] entry,” she said.

A foster carer’s view

Helen Holgate, who fosters for a local authority, said it’s “common” for foster carers not to feel like a part of the team.

“That partly is due to the fact we’re not paid in the same way that other professionals are paid, and I think because we’re not paid and we don’t have the same status that other workers have, so therefore we’re not treated in the same way,” she said. Holgate has been a foster carer for nine years, working with parent and child placements and young children with complex health needs.

They are paid their allowances and a skills fee, which she says is “wholly inadequate” for the task. “To be honest we’re at the point where I feel we can’t afford to foster any longer,” she added.

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One Response to Half of foster carers do not feel their role is valued by social work teams

  1. Imelda Hall February 18, 2015 at 6:56 pm #

    I spent just a few short 6 months in LA fostering team before moving over to the private sector for 5 years. The difference in support and status for carers went from one extreme to the other. Within the LA I was expected to visit and undertake supervision every 3 months. Within the private sector a supervision was undertaken monthly and a support visit (if children placed) was also monthly, which actually translated to fortnightly home visits. On top of this there were weekly phone calls unless there where placement issues in which case I could be on the phone to carers, LA and any other interested party several times a day and increasing visits to daily would be typical if the carer, child or LA required it. I would be present at every placement to welcome a child and help support the carer with the paperwork and finer details and in the event of allegations or placement breakdown I would be available for visits and support. My colleagues would unquestionably step in if I was absent. My group of carers received regular and ongoing training and would attend weekly support groups with other carers. These were run by me and my colleagues so that my carers would also get to know the entire team. They enjoyed an in-depth induction with advice and training provided prior to becomming foster carers. Further to this, carers and children (both theirs and fostered) received the support of our in-house therapy and education services. I am keen to develop our public services and feel they could learn a lot from the private sector and I would thoroughly recommend this model and can’t see why LA’s cannot organise themselves enough to provide this level of service. They need not pay the high fees of the private sector (not that high when you take into account the amount of social work support and in-house services, offices, tools of the trade etc). I fully believe this is managable and workable within the LA teams.